Sumi Charcoal Setting Procedure for the Japanese Tea Ceremony

In a narrow sense, Sumi refers to charcoal, a combustible material primarily composed of carbon that is obtained through the steam and carbonization of organic matter. Various types of charcoal, such as bamboo charcoal and coconut charcoal, are used as fuel. In the context of the Japanese Tea Ceremony, Sumi specifically refers to pieces of coal of different sizes and shapes that are placed in the Ro (hearth) to ensure an ample fire for heating water during the ceremony.

Required Utensils for the SumiTemae Ritual

The Sumi Temae ritual necessitates the following items:

  1. Kettle (kama – chagama)
  2. Basket container containing essential items:
    • Various types of charcoal (sumi)
    • Hooks (kan) for removing the kettle from the hearth
    • Feather (hane)
    • Iron chopsticks (hibashi) for handling charcoal
    • Ceramic container holding incense (kogo)
  3. Special folded paper for placing the kettle on
  4. Container of ash with a metal scoop for placing ash in the hearth
  5. Large feather for final cleaning of tatami mats

The Ceremony

From the initial introduction of all the necessary items into the room to the placement of the charcoal pieces and the use of incense, the SumiTemae ceremony follows strict rules and sequences that must be followed. The kettle is removed from the hearth in a specific manner, and a feather is used to cleanse the area throughout the procedure. Refilling the kettle and the final cleansing of the tatami mats are also integral parts of the process before leaving the tea room.

The Journey of Practice

Embarking on my Tea Ceremony journey in 2017, I never imagined being able to complete this ritual. It seemed immensely challenging and beyond my capabilities. However, that’s the beauty of practice. The more we engage in something, the easier it becomes over time. The same applies to the Japanese Tea Ceremony. The path toward perfection lies in the journey itself, rather than the attainment of perfection. It is through years of practice that one truly grasps the intricacies involved in this art form.

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