Traditional Culture of Japan - Traditional crafts and culture

Getting a sense of the season in the tea ceremony

 

What are the benefits of performing the tea ceremony? One of them would be “getting a sense of the season.” In Japan, all four seasons — spring, summer, autumn and winter — are well defined. However, in modern Japan it can be hard to get a sense of the season in everyday life.

 

For example, today there are almost no seasonal restrictions on food ingredients. You may pay a little more sometimes, but you can obtain the same food ingredients throughout the year. There is little opportunity nowadays to get a sense of the season from the food we eat.

 

We don't even have time to see what things are like outside because we are forever busy at work. With the development of the subway network, some people even travel to work on subways without so much as setting foot on an outdoor path. It’s no wonder that people don’t have much sense of what season it is.

 

However, in tea ceremony it is very important to have a sense of the season. You know what season it is when you perform a tea ceremony. The tea ceremony utensils used vary according to season, and likewise, the style in which tea ceremony is performed also changes.

 

  A sense of the season in tea ceremony
In Japanese traditional culture, it is very important to have a sense of the season. Things change in line with the changes of the seasons.

 

For example, when spring comes in Japan, cherry blossom trees come into full bloom. Attracted by the pink blossoms, many people organize parties underneath the trees. This kind of party is called “hanami.”

 

In tea ceremony, Japanese-style sweets are served as well as the tea. One type of sweet, called “sakura mochi,” is inspired by the cherry blossom tree. It is pink like the cherry blossoms themselves, and is wrapped in a leaf of the cherry blossom tree. When it is served at a tea ceremony, it enhances the sense that the season is spring.

 

     

 

Fall is represented in Japan by susuki (Japanese pampas grass). In addition, many people head to the mountains in fall to view the spectacle of leaves turning red and gold.

 

This is why, in tea ceremony, utensils with red leaves painted on them are used in the fall, and pampas grass is used in flower arrangements at that time of year. Tea ceremony uses utensils that match the time of year in order to give participants a strong sense of the season.

 

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By going back and forth between home and school or work, we have few chances to get a sense of the season. We can’t enjoy the current season unless we go outdoors in a natural environment. But, even without going to the sea or the mountains, you can experience the season by performing a tea ceremony.

 

Nowadays, we can obtain everything we want, regardless of the seasons. That’s wonderful because it's convenient for us, but the importance of experiencing what each season has to offer is being forgotten.

 

In former times, we wore clothes suitable for each season and used seasonal ingredients in our cooking. It was commonplace to observe and appreciate the changes in plants and flowers from season to season. This consciousness of the season nourished our soul. In this modern world where our ties to nature are weaker, it is one of tea ceremony’s greatest benefits that it keeps us in touch with the seasons.


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