Chadō, the Japanese Way of Tea, is a practice with more than 400 years of history. Usually performed in a teahouse, or chashitsu, the act of preparing and serving matcha tea to guests is considered a way to socialise. It involves deep attention to single movements and gestures, an appreciation of the craft objects and their role in the process, and an awareness of the surrounding environment.
In Japan, the term chadō has been frequently used since the 17th century. It consists of the characters cha (茶, meaning ‘matcha’), referencing matcha as the central element to entertain guests, and do (道, meaning ‘the way’), referring to the process of learning and mastering the procedures and philosophy involved in the tradition.
Tea drinking was first recorded in Japan in the 9th century. By the 14th century, tea cultivation had spread across Japan and influential tea master Sen no Rikyū (1522-1591 CE) had, by the end of the following century, established distinguished rules surrounding the tea ceremony - a tradition that is still practised in Japan today.
In 1582, Sen no Rikyū designed and commissioned Tai-an, a chashitsu teahouse that is believed to be the oldest of its kind. Its careful design embodies the fundamental spirit and teachings of chadō, or chanoyu (lit. meaning ‘hot water for tea’), created by Sen no Rikyū around this time.
Both chadō and chanoyu can also be translated as ‘tea ceremony’. The first mention of chadō in English can be found in Okakura Kakuzō’s book The Book of Tea (1906), and from the 1950s onwards ‘tea ceremony’ became a common term.
Today, chadō is enjoyed by practitioners not only in Japan but all over the world.
Urasenke tea school
Urasenke, one of the largest tea schools in Japan, which introduces chadō through presentations and lectures all over the world, has been following the principles of Sen no Rikyū since its establishment.
In conversation with Japan House London, Kimura Sōkei, tea master from the London branch of Urasenke, explains the intricate details of teahouse architecture and design, the process of chanoyu gatherings, and the importance of individual elements used during a tea ceremony, such as water and utensils.