Loading... Please wait...
The Arbor Teas Blog

Samurai Culture and the Japanese Tea Ceremony

Posted by

Japanese Samurai and Chado

At its core, the Japanese tea ceremony is a meditation. The process of the ceremony forces practitioners to stop and appreciate each thing in its time – be it a flower, a bamboo whisk or matcha bowl, and of course, the tasting of the tea itself. For the Samurai, the tea ceremony was an important companion to his martial arts training, which placed a value on clarity, honor, and transcendence.

A Little History
Samurai culture and Zen Buddhism evolved alongside one another in Japan during the Sengoku or “warring states” period between 1467 and 1603. As such, the Samurai warrior class was influenced by Zen spiritualism, and vice-versa. This created a culture unto itself, which valued honor, frugality, and mastery of all things, including chado, or the "way of tea".

The Process of Chado
The simple and meditative Japanese tea ceremony, or chado, is thought to have been established by Sen no Rikyū, a tea master who lived during the Sengoku period.

This ceremony, which involves the simple preparation of matcha, begins with the guests washing their hands to rid themselves of the dust of the outside world. They then enter the teahouse by crawling in through a small opening, an act that is purposefully humbling.

Once the guests have removed their shoes, they take a moment to gather in front of the tokonoma, an alcove inside the teahouse, to admire the flowers and artwork displayed there. When the ceremony is ready to begin, the guests kneel before the tatami mat.

The host then presents and cleans the tools used in the ceremony, including a matcha bowl, called a chawan, a  bamboo scoop and bamboo whisk, using exacting movements designed to emphasize precision and grace.

Once the tea has been prepared, the host hands the chawan to the first guest, who takes a sip of the tea, wipes the cup with a cloth, and passes the cup to the next guest. After the tea has been consumed, the host then cleans the tools and passes them around the circle for the guests to admire. Often, these tools would be simple and worn from use.

Similarities to Budo, the Martial Way
Budo, known as the martial way or “way of war” in Samurai culture, is similar to chado in that its practitioners take to it with the utmost seriousness and discipline. Gestures within the budo practice are also precise, designed to eliminate any wasted energy or unnecessary movement.

For the Samurai, practicing chado was yet a another way toward personal growth.

Although the Samurai has come and gone, the tea ceremony is still practiced in teahouses in Japan, and around the world. Attending a tea ceremony is a great way to connect not only to one of the world’s greatest philosophies, but to the simple appreciation of tea.