It’s been around for centuries and has adherents who have devoted their lives to its study. So let’s admit right up front that chanoyu – more commonly known as the Japanese tea ceremony – is not a tradition whose many and varied intricacies can be dealt with in a space as short as this. But if you’re looking to explore this tradition in more depth, there are a number of useful resources to set you on your path.
Chanoyu is a Japanese word that translates to “hot water for tea.” According to one commentator, “it is nothing more than following a set of predetermined actions – spoken phrases and unspoken gestures – designed to create the most harmonious, elegant, and yet efficient means of serving tea to guests.” For another high-level overview of chanoyu, refer to this Wikipedia entry on the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
There are three main schools of chanoyu. They are Urasenke, Omotesenke and Mushanokojisenke. For a more detailed look at this tradition, check out the Web site for the San Francisco chapter of Urasenke, which includes a great deal of information of the history of chanoyu, as well as articles, links and a recommended reading list. The Urasenke Foundation was established in May 1949 and is based in Kyoto, Japan.
Urasenke San Francisco, as they put it, “exists to promote a better understanding and appreciation among the American people of the rich cultural heritage of Japan as expressed in the art of chanoyu.” There are several levels of membership to the group, including an introductory membership. Beginners can take heart in the fact that there’s also “a rigorous curriculum structured to welcome students of any experience level.”
For more on chanoyu and Japanese tea culture, try The Japanese Tea Ceremony: Cha-No-Yu; The Tea Ceremony and The Book of Tea, by Kakuzo Okakura. If you’re seeking a more scholarly approach to chanoyu, look here and here.
For information about an offbeat, fictional tea ceremony of a totally different order, look here for more about the Klingon Tea Ceremony from the Star Trek universe.
Don’t forget to check out Tea Guy Speaks!