Tea Ceremony

Samurai Tea Ceremony

Chado flourished during Japan’s centuries-long civil war, the age of the samurai.

Other than acquiring skills in the practice of war and abiding by the Bushido code, the upper/Samurai class of feudal Japan was very much linked with the arts of the chanoyu, Japanese for tea ceremony. In many ways, it reflected the samurai ideal as well as Japan as a whole. The ceremony typically induced an atmosphere of tranquility, contrasting the qualities of strength and aptitude possessed by each samurai. The art of chanoyu was a form of artistic expression that aimed to develop a sense of natural and simplicity, to experience reality in an utmost disciplined manner. Under the renowned tea master Sen no Rikyu, the ceremony became chado, or the way of tea. During the ceremony, the samurai were able to intently focus on what is and isn’t and clearly notice the interactions on and off the battlefield. Contrary to popular belief, the samurai did not practice chado to escape from their everyday burdens of violence, chaos and life on the battlefield. Rather, it was a direct confrontation in which the samurai were able to gain a critical insight into life and reality.

Some similarities and differences between chado and budo, or the martial ways, may help us understand why the warrior class became involved with the art of chanoyu. To start off, the two share a core value of ichi go, ichi e – one encounter, one chance. A mistake made on the battlefield parallels a wrong step taken at a tea ceremony. In both cases, mistakes are to be dealt with and integrated in a constructive manner because there are no do-overs. In disciplining themselves with this practice, the samurai learned to consider unexpected events and polished their martial strategy by realizing that things don’t always go according to plan, like rain on the day of a tea ceremony. Furthermore, the ritual of tea ceremonies is not as simple as boiling water and making tea, and neither is budo. Both require practice and expertise in order focus, simplify and to do what’s necessary to get the job done.  

Works Cited