Traditional Culture of Japan - Traditional crafts and culture

Contentment, a basic principle from the Way of Tea


What do you do with a valuable pot or a hanging scroll if you have something like that? Perhaps you display it proudly in a prominent place in your home for others to see.


Your visitors will listen to your story about this item and politely show some interest in it, but the impression will fade after you move on from that place. On the other hand, if you have items like these in the place where the tea ceremony is held, your guests will be deeply impressed. Let’s now look into why there is this difference.


  Learning the fundamentals of contentment from the Way of Tea
Tea ceremony has its rules. There is an established framework of etiquette that needs to be followed. You might think that rules are annoying, but consider that in sports, the rules of the game must be observed, and in exams, cheating is not permitted. In fact, in any domain, things would fall into disorder if rules were disregarded.


It is precisely because there are rules for tea ceremony that it is possible to create an experience that a guest will find moving.


As mentioned above, even if you have tea utensils made by a celebrated artisan, simply showing them to somebody will not make so much of an impression. On the other hand, consider the effect if a pot produced by a famous artisan was used, without comment, as an integral part of the tea ceremony. Further, imagine the impression it would make if a scroll by a well-known artist were hung on the wall and some wonderful food were served.


You would no doubt be moved by this. People will ordinarily feel very grateful when shown an item that its owner treats as precious. This response can be called the magic of tea ceremony.


It’s the same in domain of sports. Take soccer, for example. You don’t impress people much by demonstrating how nimbly you can dribble the ball, or how fast you can drill the ball into the back of the net.


But it’s different when you demonstrate these skills during the course of a soccer match. If you evade a defender with your skilled footwork or kick a spectacular goal, spectators can’t help but be impressed, even if you had no intention of showing off. The more your efforts on the field produce unexpected results, the more the spectators feel exhilarated.


Even if it’s simply a matter of pride, the way a person perceives something depends on how and where it's displayed. The same goes for tea ceremony: if high-quality ceramic ware, hanging scrolls, and containers are used in the context of a tea ceremony, their quality is appreciated much more than would otherwise be the case.


  Aim to make things pleasant for others in your daily life
Tea ceremony has some established rules. Making and drinking the tea are the basic elements of tea ceremony, but there are certain steps that must be carried out as part of the process: carrying the tea utensils, boiling the water, and serving the tea to guests. In the parlance of tea ceremony, these steps are referred to as temae.


Much practice is required in order to perform the steps of temae correctly, because there are certain rules in tea ceremony that must be learned.


Nobody can enjoy playing a sport without knowing its rules. The game will be ruined if you go slapping the ball with your hand in soccer, or dribbling the ball with your feet in basketball. Rules are the common language shared by the participants in an activity.


In the same way, rules like temae are necessary in tea ceremony. However, it should not be forgotten that it is precisely because of these rules that it is possible to share one’s time with a guest, and, on occasion, to be affected emotionally.


You can apply this tea ceremony concept even in your everyday life. For example, you have rules at school or at work, but to some extent there would also be certain rules within your family or in club activities.


One of these rules is to make things pleasant for the other person without expecting something in return. This applies whether the other person is your supervisor at work or another member of your family. Of course, this is not something you mention overtly to the other person. Making interaction with the other person pleasant is a Japanese way of dealing with others that is based on the Way of Tea.

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