Tea ceremony in Japan

The Most Traditional Japanese Culture – Tea Ceremony

The tea ceremony experience starts from the moment you enter the tea room until you leave. It’s not just about drinking tea but you appreciate the flower of the tea ceremony (Chabana), hanging scroll (Kakejiku), and the tools the host chose for the tea ceremony for that special day.

What to do in the tea ceremony

1. Enter the room

– Traditional tea rooms have a very small door where you have to crawl through. This was for Samurais to not be able to bring any swords or other weapons inside the tea room since the tea room had to be a place where things happening outside of the tea room should not matter. Whether they were enemies or not, once they were in the tea room, they were all equally important.

2. Tokonoma (Alcove)

– Once you enter the tea room, first you walk to the alcove and sit in front of it. You look at the flower (Chabana) of the season and the hanging scroll (Kakejiku) with writings on it, usually representing the theme of the tea ceremony. Then, if there is a kettle displayed, you walk to it and sit in front to look at it.

3. Take a seat

Sit on the guest’s spot, usually on a red mat or on a chair depending on the tea ceremony. Guests sit in line. The person closest to the host is where the most important guest or a person with the best knowledge of tea ceremony sits.

– The host comes in and starts tea ceremony –

4. Sweets

– When the sweets are served to you or when the host tells you to eat the sweets, go ahead and have them first before the tea is served. With the sweetened mouth, the bitter tea will taste much better!
5. Show appreciation – Place the tea bowl in front of you. Bow and say “Thank you for the tea” (Otemae chodai itashimasu) to the host.

6. Avoid the front

– When the tea is served to you, the front of the tea bowl is facing you. BUT… You must not drink from the front! You have to drink from the back of the tea bowl to show respect to the tea bowl, so you have to rotate it 180 degrees before drinking. First place the tea bowl on your left palm and use your right hand to lift the tea bowl to rotate it clockwise twice (for a total of 180 degrees).

7. Drink it

– When the back of the tea bowl is on your side, you bow a little to show appreciation to the tea and then sip it. Usually people drink the whole bowl in about three sips. Make sure to make a loud sound at the last sip so that you can sip till the last bit.

8. Put it back where it was, the way it was

– Wipe the part where you put your mouth on the bowl with your finger. The tea bowl should still be on your left palm and you rotate the tea bowl counter-clockwise twice (for 180 degrees) this time to get the front of the tea bowl in front of you (just as when it was served to you). Then place the bowl in front of you on the floor if you are sitting on the floor.

9. Look at the tea bowl

– Now admire the tea bowl. Enjoy the pattern on the tea bowl. Usually the front has the symbolic picture or the main drawing of the bowl. You can also flip the tea bowl to see the bottom of the tea bowl where the signature/stamp of the artist is written. When you are finished looking at it, put it back the way it was with the front of the tea bowl facing you.


To learn more about the tea ceremony, you can watch this Youtube video(30 min long video describing tea ceremony in detail):

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