Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Japanese Culture

 (The Way of the Tea) a.k.a. The Japanese Tea Ceremony 

 The Japanese tea ceremony began based on Chinese tea drinking rituals imported into Japan by a Buddhist monk in the 9th century A.D. Legend states that drinking tea had been known to China for thousands of years. So you see, Asian legends apply even from one Asian country to the next. There are plenty of “legends” to make something seem grander and to impress the neighbors. At any rate, the Japanese tea ceremony, as it is primarily known in the West, truly began only with the use of matcha (Japanese: 抹茶、まっちゃ、”maccha” as typed). This began in the 12th century A.D. (I am specifying A.D. because I don’t want any confusion with Japanese calendar eras at all. – J) This is powdered green tea, which is really unfermented tea powder from the same plant as that used for black tea. The Tea Experience It is important to first detail the experience. 

 A single “ceremony” is referred to as 茶の湯 (cha no yu), “Hot Tea Water.” We should understand this as an idiomatic expression; small wonder Westerners prefer referring to it as the tea ceremony, as they regard it as a ceremony, and about tea. Also, a direct translation seems hopeless. Tea ceremony it is! Guests at a tea ceremony are served a 懐石 (かいせき、kaiseki), a traditional Japanese meal brought in courses. It is a light meal rather than a banquet level one. The word itself combines the kanji for “nostalgia” with “stone.” I imagine the meaning is idiomatic; a meal as an “old stone” suggests old traditions. This meal is followed by 酒 (さけ、sake), traditional Japanese rice wine. Sake is not used to wash down rice (being derived from rice), but is consumed separately so that it can be appreciated on its own merits. Thus, the guests have had their hunger sated and have had alcohol that dulls the senses to a degree. This is followed – or should the ceremony be of a type to skip meals, begins – with the eating of a sweet or sweets, eaten off a special paper called 懐紙 (かいし、kaishi). The last kanji stands for “paper” in general. The first kanji is the same as in “kaiseki.” Thus, the dulled taste buds experience sweetness on the tongue. Each utensil – the tea bowl, the tea whisk, and the tea scoop – is ritually cleaned in the presence of the guests. This accomplished, the host will place the green tea powder in the bowl and add the precise amount of hot water that his specific tradition demands. He will then whisk the tea with precise motions. The guests are able to observe all of this before their very eyes. The decorations of the room where the tea ceremony takes place are simple and old-fashioned. 

Conversation is kept to a minimum as the guests enjoy the sound of water, the whiff of incense and the tea itself, and the sight of the host’s labors and the simplicity of the environment. Finally, the tea is served. The host and the guest of honor (初客, shokyaku, “first guest”) exchange bows. The guest of honor bows to the second guest, and then raises the bowl, as with all traditional Japanese meals, to honor the host and ascribe importance to his gift. He then rotates the bowl slightly to not sip from the very front of it, takes three careful sips, wipes the bowl clean for cleanliness’ sake, and then passes the bowl to the second guest, and on it goes. This tea is very bitter!! 

Two types of tea are served. 
濃茶, こいちゃ、koicha. This is literally thick tea 
薄茶、うすちゃ、usucha. This is literally thin tea 

So, the power of the tea is relative to these two. The former can be followed by the latter, depending on the ceremony and so forth. Depending on if a meal is served, the number of guests, the type of ceremony etc., the tea ceremony can last between ONE and FIVE HOURS. 

 sumber : http://jp.learnoutlive.com/japanese-culture-the-way-of-the-tea/

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