Japanese Tea Ceremony Etiquette

Over the weekend, I went to a presentation about the formal Japanese tea ceremony.  It was so cool!  I mean, I knew it was involved, but I guess I didn’t know how involved.  There are multiple schools devoted to teaching the rules of tea ceremonies.  I’m pretty sure I would have offended a bunch of Japanese people had it been a real ceremony.  Everything, and I mean everything, has a special significance.  The host (or hostess) puts SO much thought into choosing the scroll and flower decorations, and always, always thinks of the guest(s) when preparing for and performing the ceremony.

For example, there is an order to the service of the guests, with the first guest being the most important.  But the first guest has to apologize to the second guest for drinking first.  Also, one must hold the tea bowl a certain way to keep it safe: right hand on the side, and the left hand underneath.  The host very deliberately turns the tea bowl to face the guest so he/she can see the most decorated front side.  There is lots of bowing at certain times, and very specific, formal greetings are exchanged, but sometimes everyone is supposed to be silent.  It’s also considered rude if the guest does not admire the host’s tea equipment and compliment the tea bowl at appropriate times.  It’s a lot to keep straight!

Well, maybe one day I’ll go to Japan!  Until then, I need lots of practice so I can do it all correctly on the slim chance I’m invited for tea.  Bring on the matcha!!  Otemae chodai itashimasu!  (“Thank you for making tea!”)


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