Around the Tea Room: Tools of the trade


The following are some of the basic items we use in tea ceremony. There are many more items, and they can vary considerably by the tradition one practices, Omotesenke, Urasenke, Mushanokojisenke, etc. While I practice Omotesenke tea, I have also included a few examples from other schools.

In most of the photos you can see the tatami. This is to give you a sense of size. The lines on the tatami are 1.5 cm wide, 1/2 sun, 0.6”.

Personal items
At the top is a kobukusa, which the Urasenke School of Tea uses, similar to the dashibukusa, but it is one-fourth the size.

The white paper on the left is for women and the larger paper on the right is for men. The object on the women’s paper is for eating sweets. In our school, Omotesenke, men do not use them. Practitioners mainly use the paper as a plate for sweets and for cleaning, but more traditionally, people used it for anything you use paper for, such as writing, etc.

Next are the various fukusa, orange for women and purple for men. The brocade ones are dashibukusa, which we use for serving thick tea. We use regular fukusa to ritually purify utensils, etc.

Finally, in Omotesenke, we carry fans (sensu). These are the same size for men and women, and somewhat large. Other traditions usually have larger ones for men and sometimes very small ones for women to use when they aren’t wearing kimono.

Waste container (kensui)
At the top is a bronze kensui with a bamboo lid rest inside and a ladle on top. This is how one often transports them into the tea room. Practitioners use other materials, but bronze is very common.

Next is a ceramic lid rest (futaoki). Futaoki are made of many materials, not just bamboo. Practitioners usually use these when they use a tea table. They use the bamboo ones when this is not the case.

The next two are first, the winter, then the summer ladle, hishaku, sitting on their respective futaoki. Both hishaku and futaoki differ slightly. The difference in the handles is difficult to see. The node on the summer futaoki is at the top, while the winter one is slightly above the middle.

Tea bowl
The black tea bowl, chawan, on the left shows how people bring the items into the room. Inside is the tea cloth, chakin. On top is the tea whisk, chasen and the upside-down tea spoon, chashaku. On the far right is a chakin and next to it a damp folded chakin, rotated, but otherwise as it is placed in the tea bowl. Practitioners use the chakin for drying the bowl, the chashaku for measuring the matcha and the chasen for whisking or kneading the tea. One could use the other tea bowl for thin tea, while they could use the black raku bowl for either thick or thin tea.

In the back are some different types of tea whisks. On the left is an Omotesenke smoke-stained whisk. Then from left to right, white bamboo (Urasenke), a black bamboo (Mushanokojisenke), a Dainipponchakogakkai one for thick tea and a special whisk for tenmoku chawan.

Mizusashi and chaire
Practitioners use cold water in the tea room to clean up and replenish the water from the kettle.

One keeps this water in a large jar called a mizusashi. One uses the one on the left, a Chinese-style jar, when they have a tea table, while the right, the Japanese-style Bizen, is placed directly on the tatami. In Omotesenke, practitioners prefer to use lacquered covers, but ceramic ones are just fine. Also, some mizusashi are made from other materials.

We usually use the tea container on the left, chaire, for thick tea, placing it inside the pouch, shifuku. The two chaki on the right are for thin tea. We have here the most common, natsume / jujube shape, and a kinrinji. There are many other shapes. We chose these because of the cherry blossom design. We often use natsume for any thin tea container, but that is strictly not correct since it only applies to that shape.

Practitioners usually serve sweets at a tea ceremony. Dry sweets, higashi, are served on a higashi bon (left) while moist sweets are usually served in a jikiro with chopsticks, kuromoji hashi. This kind of moist sweet container is an Omotesenke practice. Many schools use a bowl and all schools use stacked boxes called fuchidaka. The sweets are placed on the kaishi pictured above before eating.

Hot water
One needs hot water for tea, so in the summer, practitioners use a brazier (furo) similar to the one on the left. In the winter practitioners use a larger kettle, kama, (middle). It is placed on a tripod in a sunken hearth, ro, (right). The lids are placed on the futaoki and the water is scooped using the hishaku. Traditionally, practitioners used special charcoal to heat the water, but now one often uses an electric element. The picture on the right shows the bed of ash for the fire.

The alcove, tokonoma, is the place of honor in a Japanese room. Usually a scroll, often called the most important tea utensil, is used to set the theme for the tea gathering. This one says that the flowers on the mountain side look like fine brocade. It is spring time.
A flower vase, hanaire, may serve as a reminder of the season when using appropriate seasonal flowers.

Yojohan: the most common of tea rooms have a hearth position known as a yojohangiriro. These have the hearth next to the host with the guests sitting to the host’s right and the tokonoma to the right of the guests. However, there is almost an infinite number of possibilities. Four-and-one-half mat rooms and eight mat rooms are the most common among tea teachers.

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