Japanese Tea Ceremony


Liz Waid and Adam Navis explore the values and practice of the Japanese tea ceremony.

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Transcript


Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2  

And I’m Adam Navis. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1  

A small group of people sit in silence. Their eyes are fixed on the movement of one woman - Sachiko. Sachiko is a small Japanese woman. She wears traditional Japanese clothes - a beautiful kimono. She is busy preparing a green tea. She concentrates on each of her movements. Each movement flows into the next. What is she doing? She is leading, or hosting, a Japanese tea ceremony. Today’s Spotlight is on the Japanese tea ceremony.

Voice 2  

In Japan, drinking tea is very popular. Originally, people drank tea as a form of medicine. Soon they drank it because they enjoyed it. At first, black tea was the most popular. But in the 12th century this changed. The people used a different kind of tea - green tea, or ‘matcha’.

Voice 1  

Both green and black teas come from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant. People put the plant leaves in the sun to dry them. Black tea is dried in the sun for a longer time. The leaves react with the oxygen in the air and turn black. But to make green tea, people gently steam the leaves before drying. This way the leaves keep their green colour.

Voice 2  

The Japanese tea ceremony developed over many years. But during the 16th century the ceremony became an art form called wabi cha. One of the people who influenced this art was the great ‘tea master’ Sen no Rikyu. He believed in the importance of peace, respect, purity and calmness. He combined this simple, everyday part of life with his spiritual beliefs. These are now called, ‘Sado’ - the way of tea.

Voice 1  

Sachiko is a young Japanese woman. She has studied the tea ceremony for many years. She describes what the tea ceremony means to her.

Voice 3  

‘For me, the tea ceremony is like learning about life, how I live, and how do I see myself in this life. And my tea master will teach me history of the tea ceremony and teach me about movements or flower arrangement or utensil or pottery or any sort of thing. The tea ceremony takes normally about three hours.’

Voice 2  

It takes many years to perform the art of a tea ceremony perfectly. Like Sachiko, students do not just learn about tea. They must also learn other traditions - such as Japanese writing and flower organising. At official tea ceremonies, even the people who attend must know some things about ‘Sado’. They must know the right ways to move - such as how to drink the tea. They must know when to speak and what to say.

Voice 1  

In most tea ceremonies, a host will invite four people. They are guests of the ceremony. The host’s helper leads these people into a waiting room. The helper offers sayu to drink. This is hot water for tea-making. At the right time, the helper leads the people to the tea room, or chashitsu. This special room is only for tea ceremonies. Tea rooms are usually inside a teahouse. Teahouses are usually outside, in the garden.

Voice 2  

Before the host receives her guests she fills the stone basin with water. She washes her hands and mouth. She walks to the middle gate. Here, she welcomes her guests with a bow. No one speaks. The host leads the guests through the gate. Then, they too wash at the stone basin. They are then ready to enter the teahouse.

Voice 1  

They enter the teahouse through a sliding door. The door is just under a metre high. Everyone must bow to go through. This is an important act. It is a sign of equality. When people are through the door they become equal. They lose their social position.

Voice 2  

The tea room is simple. It usually has a hanging piece of material. This has Japanese writing on it. It may include words that show the values of the tea ceremony - like peace, respect, purity and calmness. The room also usually contains flowers.

Voice 1  

The guests bend down on their knees. And they wait for the host to serve them. They leave their worries behind them. They centre their minds only on the room. Hosts may serve the guests sweets called higashi.

Voice 2  

The host then organises the tea instruments. She cleans them with water. She dries them with a fine cloth. Then, she places three scoops of tea for each guest into the tea bowl, or chawan. She puts the right amount of water into the chawan. And then she mixes it using a chasen [cha-sen]. She needs skill to mix the powdered tea in the correct way - to make it become a thick liquid. Then she bows. She lifts the chawan with her right hand. And she places it on her left hand. She turns the chawan to the right three times, using her right hand.

Voice 1  

The host then passes the chawan to one of the guests. He bows and accepts the bowl. After he drinks from it, he cleans the top. Then he passes it to the next guest with his right hand. The guest turns the chawan and drinks from it in the same way. Guests look at the bowl before they drink from it. They see its beauty. During the whole ceremony the host serves the guests.

Voice 2  

Each instrument and movement is important in the ceremony. Buddhist theology influences much of these movements, positions and instruments. However, you do not have to be a Buddhist to take part in a tea ceremony. Some people take part in the ceremony simply to enjoy the social gathering. Others take part to enjoy the peace and calmness of the ceremony.

Voice 1  

The way of the tea has four main teachings: Wa means harmony or peace. People must try and be at peace with everything in their life - people and nature.

Voice 2  

Kei means respect. People must respect everything around them.

Voice 1  

Sei means purity. People must try to act purely.

Voice 2  

Jaku means peace of mind. It is these values that tea masters spend years trying to learn through sado - way of the tea.

Voice 1  

Would you like a Japanese tea ceremony? Are there any ceremonies for food in your culture? You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also comment on Facebook at Facebook.com/spotlightradio.

Voice 2  

The writer of this program was Marina Santee. The the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘Japanese Tea Ceremony’.

Voice 1  

Look for our free official app in the Google Play Store and in iTunes. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Do you drink tea?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
Dela
said on May 08, 2018

I love drinking tea very much, I have been drinking it every day, I mostly diversify the various sorts of teas, black, green, red roibos and besides teas containing different herbs such as mint or lemon balm and so on. I admire the Japanese traditional ceremony for tea serving because it is a strange, complex, beautiful procedure that is difficult to learn how to perform it correctly!

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Honneur
said on May 08, 2018

I don’t like drink tea. I’m Brazilian and so I like coffee very much. I think tea ceremony very artificial and snob meeting and I feel uncomfortable in this kind of meeting.