“Chado” or, the “Way of Tea”; Japanese Garden, Seattle

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A demonstration of “Chado” took place Saturday at the Seattle Japanese Garden tea house. There are many components to what sounds so casual, drinking tea.  Nothing about Chado, however, is casual.  Here you can see the interior of the tea hut, with the electric brazier topped by a kettle of water on the left, and the tokonama, or recessed alcove, on the back wall.  Notice that the tokonama measures 2/3 of the interior wall.  The tatami mats each measure 3′ x 6′.

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First, the two guests entered the 6-tatami matted room.  They remove their shoes at the entry, carefully walk in and up to the brazier, kneel and observe the brazier, then make their way to their tea-drinking location.

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After the guests are seated, as above, the inner door, shoji, slides open and the host(ess) enters the room and walks slowly and precisely to her position kneeling in front of the brazier, after she first made several trips into and out of the room, to carry in all of the tea implements, one by one.  In the photo above, you see the hostess is walking to her position in front of the brazier.

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In this photo, you can see the various implements, beginning on the right side, in the front row.  The largest, brown container is ceramic and contains the fresh water the host has just brought in.  Next you see the bamboo tea whisk.  Just behind that is the lidded tea container, which holds the matcha (green tea powder), with the bamboo scoop resting on top.  To the left of that is the ceramic tea bowl in which she will add hot water from the kettle on the electric brazier, as well as the powdered green tea and some cool, fresh water. Here she has just dipped the scoop into the hot water and is about to add it to the bowl.

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Above you see the hostess whisking the tea in the water in the tea bowl.  She prepares one bowl of this “thin” tea (there is a separate ritual which prepares “thick tea”, which is about the consistency of a roux) to be served to her first guest.  She speaks to her first guest, they bow to one another, the guest moves forward (while kneeling), takes the tea bowl, scoots back while kneeling and not disturbing her kimono (which I gather takes a lot of practice.  As you may know, kimonos don’t have buttons!).  Back in her original place, she takes her tea bowl in her hands, balances the bowl in her left palm and gives the bowl two distinct turns clockwise, so that the front of the tea bowl is now facing her.

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Before drinking the tea, the guest has eaten a small sweet, which you see on the round plate in the photo above.  The sweet prepares the palette for the bitter green tea which she will soon drink.

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After guest one has drunk her tea, and then examined her tea bowl, the host prepares a second bowl of tea for the second guest, who has likewise eaten a sweet.

Please note the placement of the closed fans right behind the feet of both guests.  They have lain these fans in these positions when they first took their places.  The fans then serve as a kind of place card.

After guest two (or more, if there are other guests) has drunk her tea, examined her tea bowl, and done her bowing to the host, the three people might discuss the scroll and floral vase that the host has selected for the tokonama.  They would never talk about politics, what books they are reading, or what they saw on tv last night.

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Above, the host is cleaning up her utensils and then she will stand and carry them, one by one, to the outer room behind the sliding shoji.

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Here she goes, carrying out the equipment.

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The host has disappeared behind the shoji, the guests have departed after slipping on their shoes, and the room appears again as it appeared before the ritual began.

Sayonara!

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