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Tea in Japan

Tea Ceremony in Japan

The traditional tea ceremony began in China. Tea was later brought to Japan during the Tang dynasty around the 5th-8th century. Tea drinking in Japan grew in popularity over time. The ceremony began as a medicinal remedy and did not become a common beverage until the 10th century in Japan. Myōan Yōsai (明菴栄西), a priest, traveled back and forth from China, learning more about religion and China’s connection to tea. He founded Zen Buddhism and introduced tea for religious purposes instead of medicinal. He introduced grinding tea leaves before adding in boiling water and Hui Tsung, a Sung emperor, added a bamboo whisk to the process. Yōsai wrote a treatise on tea called Kissa Yōjōki (喫茶養生記, Treatise on Drinking Tea for Health) and his claims in the treatise helped tea drinking gain popularity in Japan.

Tea and Samurai

The Samurai class continued to popularize tea drinking and the tea ceremony. The samurai class enjoyed the luxury as well as the health benefits of tea. They set up lavish rooms or corners of their homes for drinking tea with their families and guests. As the samurai class made drinking tea more popular, people in lesser classes also became interested in adopting the tea ceremony. Over time many people, not just samurai’s, designated small rooms to tea drinking decorated according to their classes.


Murata Jukō (村田珠光)

Jukō created the most similar tea ceremony to what is practiced today. He began his life as a religious man and spread his ideas on tea drinking and etiquette through texts and word of mouth. Jukō’s contributions to the tea ceremony in Japan in the DDDD’s helped shape the modern tea ceremony that most Japanese people practice today.


Modern Tea Ceremony

Four major aspects of chanoyu (茶の湯), formal tea ceremony:

  1. Rules. Preparing, serving, and consuming tea all happens in the same room.

  2. Setting. The tea room, or Shoin (書院), have mats, sliding doors, an alcove, asymmetrical shelves, and a floor-level table.

  3. Behavior. Harmony and respect are the two most important behaviors of this formal ceremony.

  4. Taste. This ceremony calls for perfection in the teas taste. Aesthetics are extremely important for the entirety for the ceremony. 

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