My Chanoyu: Creativity in the practice of Japanese tea


Photographs by Shinohara Hiroaki.

Chanoyu is the Way of Tea

DMA-1701090218 _whisking_tea_sakeOsamu Saruyama uses a tea whisk to make a serving of matcha.

Often translated as Japanese tea ceremony in English, Chanoyu means the “Way of Tea.” The ritualistic and highly cultivated practice of tea is also referred to as Sado or Chado, and holds both a refined and severe image for many. Though the cultural activity does contain ceremonial elements in the preparation and presentation of matcha (powdered green tea), Chanoyu actually connects to aspects in everyday life. In fact, Chanoyu has also been expounded as the “Way of Living.”

Adding richness to the routine

garden_bronze_pot(Left) Sunlight in the garden and (right) hot water being boiled for tea.

Despite the solemn impression it holds, the practice of Japanese tea brings a modest happiness and encouragement to daily life. The simple act of making a bowl of matcha provides a moment of quiet simplicity, while drinking the rich frothy tea offers a moment of pause and reflection in our busy schedule. In other words, it adds richness to the routine and can transform the ordinary into a small happiness. For example, instead of your morning cup of coffee, why not try a cup of matcha? It not only contains caffeine, but it antioxidant-rich, too. Or, invite some guests over to enjoy a relaxing, improvised tea session! After all, Chanoyu can be fun.

Personalizing tea time

personalize_tea(Left) Some traditional tea utensils such as a tea bowl, a container to hold powdered matcha, a tea scoop, and basket to hold these items. (Right) Aya Eto holds a beautiful, earthy tea bowl in her hands.

The preparation of tea also includes the preparation of the setting to set the tone and theme for the enjoyment of tea. All aspects of the environment contribute to the flavor and spirit of the tea. There is a lot of freedom in selecting the tea utensils, tea bowls or cups, and confectionaries, in addition to the scroll and flower arrangement for the tokonoma (alcove). For a personalized Chanoyu, don’t think too much about the rules of formal tea. Enjoy making tea very freely and informally, and enjoy a bowl of tea in a carefree manner.

The Chanoyu life

DMA-170122 1003 eto_trayAya Eto carries a tray with a tea bowl and tea. You too can enjoy Chanoyu in your home with some powdered matcha and a cup or bowl.

We met with 3 people who incorporate Chanoyu, or the practice of Japanese tea, into their daily lifestyle. Each one has developed their own style and way of enjoying tea, from their approach to the activity itself to their unique and even bizarre choices of equipment. Who knew that Chanoyu could be so fun? Join us as we take a peek at each of their Chanoyu routines!

DMA-170116 0589_whisking_matcha_aso
As you will discover, all you really need to enjoy Japanese tea is a tea bowl or cup, some powdered matcha, a tea whisk, and a creative spirit! Find pleasure in how you personalize Chanoyu for yourself. Won’t you try the Chanoyu life?

Translated and adapted by Jennifer Myers.