Tea ceremony is a very special part of Japanese culture and one that is a bit complex for any first-timer, tourist or resident. Before we begin with a practical tutorial, why not brush up on the background of this important ritual with our Beginner's Guide to Tea Ceremony? When you're all caught up, let's get started.
We begin our lesson in manners with seki-iri (sometimes called za-iri, 座入り), the act of entering a tea room. Take your shoes off before you enter the room, and sit in the seiza position (as shown above). All students will sit in an open square so that everyone can directly see the chado sensei clearly. The seating arrangement is based on rank, and the highest level guest should sit closest to the host, and lowest farther away. And do keep quiet throughout the lesson.
During the tea ceremony, you'll be served okashi (traditional sweets) to balance out the bitterness of tea. The way of passing the okashi around the room is from right to left. The sensei will first serve the highest ranking guest, then the okashi will be passed from right to left (from the guest of higher to lower hierarchy). It's important to pass and receive the okashi around with both hands patiently, without pulling or pushing it.
Drinking tea is definitely the most important part of the ceremony and we should be humble and appreciative to the tea and the hospitality. First, receive the tea cup with right hand and place it on the tatami to your left. Next, do a light bow to the guest right next to you, as in signaling them you will be enjoying the tea first.
When you're ready to drink the tea, bring the tea cup forward with your right hand, with the left hand placed under the cup, and make a short bow to the tea. Turn the tea cup clockwise twice and look into the teacup. Do not chuck all the tea down at once like you doing shots; enjoy the tea taking small sips. After you've finished the tea, turn the tea cup counterclockwise twice and place the teacup away from you. Watch the video from the 10 minute mark to see how it's done.
If you think our lesson in manners ends after you finished the tea, then sorry: our best friend "manners" is still present. After everyone is done, we need to bow to each other in appreciation. The chado sensei will come to collect the tea cups. Once they have thanked everyone for coming, then it's time to go. Of course you're likely curious about the tea ceremony tools, but please don't touch them. They are very fragile and expensive.