Essential Tea Equipment: Tools for the Art of Tea

Tea equipment, known as “dōgu” (道具), encompasses a wide array of tools used in the tea ceremony. From the simplest to the most elaborate tea gatherings, a diverse range of dōgu is required. The comprehensive compilation of tea implements and supplies, along with their numerous styles and variations, is so extensive that it could fill several hundred pages. Countless volumes have been dedicated to documenting these tea-related items. Here is a concise list highlighting the essential components:

Image: The Chabako (茶箱)

Chabako: The Portable Utensil Box for Tea Ceremonies

The Chabako (茶箱) is a specialized box used to carry a set of tea utensils when a tea ceremony is held outside the teacher’s usual location. It is commonly used when the teacher conducts a lesson or performs a tea ceremony in a different Chashitsu (tea room) owned by someone else or for hosting guests at various venues. Tea utensils, typically made of delicate ceramics, require careful handling and protection. The Chabako box is crafted from lightweight wood to minimize its weight during transportation. Moreover, the chosen wood is known to repel insects, ensuring the safety of the utensils stored inside the Chabako.

Chaki: Tea Utensils and Containers in the Tea Ceremony

The term “Chaki” (茶器) encompasses two meanings within the context of the tea ceremony. Firstly, it refers to a collection of diverse tea utensils employed during the ceremonial process. These utensils play essential roles in the preparation, serving, and enjoyment of tea. They can include the tea bowl (Chawan), tea whisk (Chasen), tea scoop (Chashaku), and other implements vital to the ritual.

Additionally, “Chaki” can also denote a specific container designed for storing Macha, the powdered green tea used in the tea ceremony. This container serves as a vessel to keep the Macha fresh and accessible for use during the ceremony. The Chaki container showcases the importance placed on preserving the quality and integrity of the powdered tea, ensuring a delightful tea-drinking experience for participants.

Image: Daisu (台子)

Daisu: The Elegant Utensil Stand in the Tea Ceremony

Daisu (台子), also known as a large utensil stand, serves as a prominent display for tea ceremony utensils. This portable and spacious structure features two shelves, an upper and a lower one, connected by either two or four posts. The bottom shelf of the daisu showcases the tea utensils, while the left side accommodates the portable burner (furo). Positioned in the center back is the ladle stand (shakutate), with the waste water jar (kensui) placed in front and the water jug (mizusashi) positioned on the right side.

Initially referred to as “tana,” the term now commonly denotes a smaller display stand that showcases a more limited selection of utensils. The daisu itself is typically lacquered in black, accentuated with touches of red. It finds greater utility during the summer season when the Furo portable brazier is utilized. For convenient storage, the daisu can be easily disassembled by lifting the top shelf, allowing for compact storage.

In traditional Japanese carpentry, the avoidance of metal, such as nails, is a hallmark. This choice arises from the country’s humid climate, which could cause rust and corrosion, thereby damaging the delicate wood and lacquer finishes of the daisu.

Dora: The Resonant Copper Gong in the Tea Ceremony

Dora (銅鑼), a copper gong, plays a significant role when the guests depart the Chashitsu after enjoying Koicha, a thick tea. As the guests wait at the Koshikake-Machiai, the host diligently prepares the tearoom for Usucha, a lighter tea, which may involve altering the decorative elements in the Tokonoma. Once the Teishu is ready, the guests are called back into the Chashitsu through the melodious tones of a Dora.

These exquisite gongs, crafted from copper alloy, produce a captivating and harmonious sound. They are meticulously fashioned by skilled metalworkers who possess a deep understanding of the art of melting and shaping metals. The resonant notes of the Dora serve as a compelling invitation, beckoning the guests to reenter the Chashitsu and continue their tea ceremony experience.

Image: Hachi (鉢)

Hachi: Bowls for Sweets or Food in the Tea Ceremony

Hachi (鉢), also known as bowls, play an important role in serving sweets or food before indulging in the consumption of green tea. These delightful treats are elegantly presented on a Hachi or a small tray. The bowls themselves can be crafted from ceramics or wood, each offering its own unique aesthetic and charm. Some Hachi even feature a lid, adding a touch of intrigue and anticipation to the dining experience. Accompanying the Hachi, a pair of chopsticks completes the ensemble, allowing guests to savor the delectable delights with grace and precision.

Hai: Ash in the Tea Ceremony

In the tea ceremony, Hai (灰), or ash, holds a special significance. It commonly refers to the bed of ash found within the portable brazier or fire pit where the fire is carefully laid. The ash itself is sculpted into graceful shapes, adding an artistic element to the mastery of the tea ceremony. During the Sumi-demae ritual, Hai is ceremoniously added to the existing ash bed, contributing to the formation of a moist and controlled fire. This meticulous attention to the arrangement of ash enhances the overall ambiance and experience of the tea ceremony, showcasing the dedication to detail and artistry found within this revered tradition.

Image: Hana-ire (花入), the flower vase

Hana-ire: Enhancing the Beauty of Chabana

Hana-ire (花入), the flower vase used for Chabana arrangements, plays a significant role in adding a touch of elegance to the tea ceremony space. When suspended from the Tokobashira (alcove post) in the Tokonoma, Hana-ire is often crafted from bamboo, exuding a natural and serene aesthetic. However, when placed on the base of the Tokonoma, the choice of Hana-ire becomes more versatile. It can range from ceramic bowls to repurposed Kama (iron kettles), allowing for creative expression and experimentation. The guidelines for selecting a Hana-ire are intentionally flexible, inviting the Teishu to explore their imagination and showcase their originality through the choice of this essential element. Ultimately, the Hana-ire adds a graceful touch and complements the artistry of Chabana arrangements, enhancing the overall beauty and ambiance of the tea ceremony.

Image: Kaishi Napkin

Kaishi: Delicate Mini Napkins for Tea Ceremony Etiquette

Kaishi, the Japanese-style mini napkins, hold a special place in the traditional tea ceremony. These elegant napkins serve multiple purposes, from providing a clean surface to place sweets upon to delicately wiping the rim of the Chawan (tea bowl) after enjoying Koicha (thick tea). Once used, Kaishi are carefully folded to reduce their size and tucked into the left sleeve of the Kimono. The sleeves of the Kimono are designed with convenient pockets, allowing for temporary storage of various items. It is crucial to fold the Kaishi properly to ensure that any soiled parts do not come into contact with the exquisite fabric of your Kimono, preserving its beauty. As an essential element of tea ceremony etiquette, Kaishi adds a touch of refinement and practicality to the ritual, reflecting the attention to detail and respect for tradition.

Kan: Essential Metal Rings for Handling the Kama in Tea Ceremony

In the art of the Japanese tea ceremony, the Kama, a traditional iron or brass kettle, plays a significant role. When it comes time to remove the heated Kama from the fire pit or brazier, special metal rings called Kan (かん) come into play. These sturdy rings are securely attached to the Kama, allowing for its safe lifting and placement onto the Kamashiki, a dedicated kettle stand.

Due to the intense heat generated by the Sumi fire, attempting to lift the Kama by hand would be impractical and potentially dangerous. The purpose of the Kan rings is to provide a reliable grip and ensure smooth and controlled movement of the Kama during this critical moment of the tea ceremony. Their presence not only facilitates the practical handling of the kettle but also adds to the visual appeal and authenticity of the ceremony, showcasing the attention to detail and reverence for tradition that characterize this art form.

Image: Kouboku (香木)

Aromatic Wood: Enhancing the Fragrance in the Tea Room

Kouboku (香木), known for its captivating aroma, is an essential element in creating a delightful ambiance within the Chashitsu during the Japanese tea ceremony. This aromatic wood is carefully selected and combined with Sumi, the charcoal used in the ceremony, to infuse the tea room with a soothing scent. Just like Neriko, two pieces of Kouboku are placed among the burning Sumi to release their fragrant properties. Additionally, a few extra pieces are placed in the Kougou, a container specifically designed to hold the charcoal. Later, when the Shoukyaku (the main guest) requests to observe the Kougou, there are remaining pieces of Kouboku that can be admired and even gently smelled, adding another sensory dimension to the tea ceremony experience. The presence of Kouboku not only adds to the aesthetic appeal of the tea room but also contributes to the overall ambiance, creating a serene and captivating atmosphere for both the host and guests to enjoy.

Image: Kuromoji

Kuromoji: The Graceful Chopsticks for Wagashi Delights

Kuromoji (黒文字), a type of natural wooden chopsticks, play a significant role in the Japanese tea ceremony when it comes to enjoying Wagashi, traditional Japanese sweets. These elegant chopsticks are skillfully employed to delicately transfer the Wagashi from a tray onto one’s Kaishi paper, creating a visually pleasing presentation. To uphold cleanliness and hygiene, after placing the Wagashi on the Kaishi paper, a gentle gesture is made by wiping the Kuromoji with the corner of the Kaishi paper. This act symbolizes the desire for a pristine atmosphere during the tea ceremony. It’s worth noting that the same pair of Kuromoji may be used by subsequent guests (Jikyaku), highlighting the importance of maintaining a hygienic environment throughout the ceremony. The use of Kuromoji not only serves as a practical tool for enjoying Wagashi but also adds a touch of elegance and refinement to the overall tea ceremony experience.

Image: Neriko Incense 練香

Neriko: Aromatic Bliss for Winter Tea Ceremonies

In the winter season, when the tea ceremony takes place in the Ro, the enchanting fragrance of Neriko incense fills the air. Neriko (練香) is a specially blended Japanese incense, meticulously crafted into small, round-ball shapes measuring around 5 to 7 millimeters. During the Sumitemae (Gozumi) ritual, when charcoal is added to the fire, two Neriko balls are carefully placed. One is positioned near the center of the fire, releasing its aroma swiftly to captivate the senses. The second Neriko is positioned next to the newly added charcoal, allowing its fragrance to gradually permeate the surroundings. With these precise placements, the delightful scent of Neriko gracefully accompanies the entire tea ceremony, creating an immersive sensory experience for all participants. Embracing the essence of winter, Neriko adds a touch of aromatic bliss to the tranquil ambiance of the tea room, enhancing the overall atmosphere and elevating the tea ceremony to a truly memorable occasion.

Image: Ro (炉)

Ro: Embracing Warmth and Tradition in the Winter Tea Ceremony

Ro” (炉) refers to the sunken hearth or fireplace used to boil water for making tea. It is an essential element of the tea room and plays a significant role in the tea preparation process. The Ro is usually built into the floor and is constructed using heat-resistant materials such as iron or clay. It provides a source of heat for boiling water and contributes to the ambiance and aesthetic of the tea ceremony. The design and placement of the Ro are carefully considered to create a focal point in the tea room and enhance the overall atmosphere of the ceremony.

Image: Tana (棚)

Tana: Showcasing Elegance and Individuality in Tea Utensils

The term “tana” (棚) encompasses a variety of wooden or bamboo furniture pieces used in the art of tea preparation. Each type of tana has its own distinctive name, reflecting its unique characteristics. From size and style to features and materials, tana exhibits a remarkable range of diversity. While it is considered less formal than its larger counterpart, the daisu (large utensil stand), tana serves a crucial role in displaying and highlighting the individual beauty of the utensils.

Due to its smaller size, the tana typically accommodates the wastewater receptacle (kensui) on its lower shelf, while the water ladle (hishaku) and lid rest (futaoki) find their place of honor on the top. In certain instances, a middle shelf may be present, offering an opportunity to showcase the tea container (natsume). Some tana even feature a drawer-like box on the middle shelf, providing a secure spot for the tea container. Like the daisu, tana stands on four legs, though the wood used is often left in its natural untreated state, exuding a rustic charm.

Beyond their functional role, tanas add an aesthetic dimension to the tea ceremony, drawing attention to the exquisite details and craftsmanship of the utensils they hold. Through the artful arrangement within the tana, the guests’ eyes are guided to appreciate the individuality and elegance of each tea utensil. The tana serves as a stage where beauty and artistry merge, captivating participants with a visual symphony that enriches the entire tea experience.

Whether crafted with simplicity or adorned with intricate embellishments, the tana embodies the spirit of tea ceremony, celebrating the uniqueness of each utensil and offering a platform for their graceful presence.

Image: Tenmoku (天目) tea bowls

Tenmoku: Exquisite Tea Bowls for Delicate Handling

In the realm of Japanese tea ceremonies, one often encounters the captivating beauty of Tenmoku (天目) tea bowls. These bowls, characterized by their narrow foot, hold a special place in the ritual. However, both the Teishu (host) and Kyaku (guest) must exercise caution when handling these delicate vessels, as they have a tendency to tip over with ease.

Tenmoku bowls possess an inherent allure that captivates the senses. Their elegant form and distinctive design elevate the tea-drinking experience to new heights. Crafted with meticulous precision, these bowls showcase the artistry and skill of the artisans who bring them to life.

While their aesthetic appeal is undeniable, Tenmoku bowls require mindful handling due to their narrow foot. The Teishu and Kyaku must approach them with care, ensuring a steady grip to prevent any unintended spills. The delicate balance of the bowl adds an element of mindfulness to the tea ceremony, encouraging participants to embrace a heightened sense of focus and attention.

With their rich history and enduring charm, Tenmoku tea bowls continue to enchant tea ceremony enthusiasts around the world. Their graceful presence and refined craftsmanship remind us of the delicate nature of the tea ceremony itself, where every movement and gesture carries profound meaning. As the Teishu and Kyaku navigate the intricacies of the ceremony, the Tenmoku bowl stands as a symbol of elegance and invites a deeper appreciation for the art of tea.

Tenmoku-dai: The Stabilizing Stand for Tenmoku Tea Bowls

When it comes to Tenmoku tea bowls, their distinct feature is their narrow foot, which can sometimes pose a challenge in terms of stability during a Japanese tea ceremony. To address this issue, a specialized stand called Tenmoku-dai comes into play.

The Tenmoku-dai serves as a supportive platform for the Tenmoku tea bowl, ensuring its stability and balance throughout the tea ceremony. By placing the tea bowl on the Tenmoku-dai, it gains a secure foundation that prevents accidental tipping or wobbling.

The design of the Tenmoku-dai is specifically tailored to accommodate the unique shape of the Tenmoku tea bowl. It provides a suitable resting place for the bowl’s narrow foot, allowing it to sit comfortably and securely on the stand.

The purpose of the Tenmoku-dai goes beyond practicality. It also adds an aesthetic element to the overall presentation. The stand is often crafted with care, showcasing exquisite woodworking techniques and attention to detail. Its design can complement the elegance and simplicity of the Tenmoku tea bowl, enhancing the visual appeal of the tea ceremony.

With the Tenmoku-dai in place, both the tea host (Teishu) and the guests (Kyaku) can fully engage in the ceremony without worrying about the stability of the tea bowl. It ensures a smooth and enjoyable tea experience, allowing everyone to focus on the beauty of the tea and the serene atmosphere of the ceremony.

Tenugui: The Versatile Rectangular Cotton Hand Towel

Tenugui (手拭) is a traditional Japanese hand towel made of cotton, renowned for its versatility and practicality. With its rectangular shape and lightweight fabric, Tenugui serves various purposes in daily life and cultural traditions.

The primary function of Tenugui is to serve as a hand towel for drying hands and face. Its soft and absorbent nature makes it ideal for personal hygiene needs. Additionally, Tenugui can be easily carried in a pocket or bag, ensuring convenience on the go.

Beyond its utilitarian role, Tenugui plays a significant part in Japanese culture and aesthetics. It serves as a versatile accessory in various traditional arts and rituals. In the realm of tea ceremonies, Tenugui may be used to handle hot teaware or to wipe utensils, adding a touch of elegance and refinement to the proceedings.

Moreover, Tenugui finds its place in martial arts, where it is often used as a headband or to wrap around the wrists for added grip and support during training. Its lightweight and breathable fabric make it an ideal choice for athletes and practitioners.

What sets Tenugui apart is its vibrant and artistic designs. It serves as a canvas for intricate patterns, calligraphy, or scenic motifs, reflecting Japanese craftsmanship and cultural heritage. These designs may change with the seasons or be used to represent specific occasions or events.

With its practicality, cultural significance, and artistic flair, Tenugui continues to be cherished in Japan and admired by people around the world. Whether used as a functional towel or embraced as a decorative accessory, Tenugui embodies the fusion of beauty and utility that defines Japanese craftsmanship.

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