Saturday, March 22, 2014

Japanese tea ceremony at the Detroit Institute of Arts, beautiful demonstration of rituals steeped in history

Hostess (in pink) serves guest of honor (in brown) and other attendee
Last weekend, the Japanese Women’s Club in association with the Japanese Consulate of Detroit demonstrated the rituals of the tea ceremony at the Detroit Institute of Arts as a part of the museum's current special exhibition, "Samurai: Beyond the Sword".  My daughter, Rachel, and I were in attendance of the demonstration, and, having experienced many an English afternoon tea as well as being guests at a Chinese tea ceremony, we were anxious to learn more about this very distinct way of tea.

Guests pay homage to wall hangings and tea preparation area
While the Chinese focus on the tea and the English afternoon tea centers on sumptuous treats and accessories, the Japanese tea ceremony's main emphasis is ritual. The hostess invites a guest of honor, and after that designation is bestowed, she can invite as many other attendees as she wishes. The guests enter the room, but before placing themselves at the station where they will be served, they first work their way around the perimeter paying respect to the wall hangings and tea preparation area.

Hostess wipes down tea accessories with napkin
Sunday's demonstration was a condensed version of a ceremony that, with the inclusion of a meal, can take over four hours. At the DIA stage in the Rivera Room, two guests and a hostess, dressed in beautiful traditional dress performed the ceremony in less than an hour. After giving all the accouterments a ceremonial cleaning with a dry napkin, the hostess prepared matcha, a powdery green tea that is whisked to a frothy consistency with a bamboo whisk.

The hostess serves the guest of honor first, who admires the bowl in which the tea is poured. She drinks quickly and appreciates the design of the bowl, making sure to point the most beautiful part of the pottery away from herself.
Guests may ask to examine tea boxes with carvings
After the other attendees are served, they may ask to see the hostess' tea canister. Guests will admire the lovely carved wooden box and after a respectable time of inspection, hand it back to the hostess. 

Hostess leaves the room with tea equipage
When the guests are done with the tea, the hostess will gather up her tea making equipage and depart. Attendees will retrace their earlier route of the room, again paying homage to the area where the tea was prepared as well as the wall hangings, placing an unopened fan before them to mark a respectable boundary between themselves and the hostess' belongings.

Guests again pay respect to tea area, placing an unopened fan as a boundary
There is very little talk during the ceremony as it is considered a meditative event. Unlike the English afternoon tea which Rachel and I are most familiar with, it is quiet, modest and entirely scripted. Beautiful and amazing to watch, we may not yet be masters at the Japanese tea ceremony, but we did bring back some Japanese green tea from the DIA gift shop and, that my dear friends, is a start.

Rachel looks at tea selection in gift shop

2 comments:

parTea lady said...

That must have been an interesting ceremony to watch. I'm afraid I would not do well with that sitting position or keeping quiet. ;-)

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