Tea Ceremony KOTO is a tea house established with tourists and beginners in mind. Beginners and tourists often hesitate to join tea ceremonies held in famous temples around Kyoto. They hesitate for many reasons. They might not be accustomed to wearing a kimono by themselves. They might not know what kind of kimono to wear. Some might have trouble distinguishing the many utensils necessary for a tea ceremony. The only way to understand the nature of tea ceremonies is to go out and experience it for oneself. This is the reason why I opened a tea house near Kinkakuji Temple. Tea Ceremony KOTO gives foreign tourists and newcomers a chance to receive the tea ceremony experience first-hand.
By the way, let us say that you are interested in continuing on learning the art of the tea ceremony. Which places provide lessons? How long does one train? Are there any qualifications or certificates one can receive?
Schools of Japanese Tea Ceremony
In Japan, there are 3 famous and historical schools of Japanese tea ceremony. These 3 schools are each founded by the 16th century tea master Sen no Rikyū (千利休). They are known collectively as the San-Senke (三千家). The San-Senke arose from the fact that the 3 sons of Sen Sōtan (千宗旦): the grandson of Sen no Rikyū, inherited or built a tea house and assumed the duty of passing forward the tea ideals and tea methodology of their great-grandfather. Kōshin Sōsa inherited Fushin-an (不審菴); Sensō Sōshitsu inherited Konnichi-an (今日庵), and Ichiō Sōshu built Kankyū-an (官休庵). In order to preserve the schools’ traditions, only the descendants can of Sen no Rikyū be the grandmaster of each school. There are small stylistic differences between the different schools such as the shape and color of the utensils that they use or the direction in which they whisk the tea.
- Urasenke (裏千家): It is said that the Urasenke is the most famous tea school in the Kyoto area. I received my 2nd degree instructor certification from this school. The main tea house is called the Konnichi-an (今日庵). The current Iemoto (grandmaster) is the 16th generation in the line. The previous head of the school is now over 90 years old but still actively conducts tea ceremonies around the world. His motto is “peacefulness through a bowl of tea”. Since I welcome many foreign customers into my tea house, I passionately respect and follow his view as well.
- Omotesenke (表千家): The current Iemoto (grandmaster) is the 14th generation in the line. The main tea house is called the Fushin-an (不審庵).
- Musha-no-kōjisenke (武者小路千家): The current Iemoto (grandmaster) is the 14th generation in the line. The main tea house is called the Kankyu-an (官休庵)
Learning the Art of the Tea Ceremony at a Teacher’s House.
Tea ceremony lessons are usually conducted at the teacher’s house once a week or about 3 times per-month. My teacher is over 80 years old: an experienced master. The classroom is one with much history. Students spend numerous decades learning the art. It might seem hard to study for such a long time but I enjoyed the daily actions of handling the utensils and feeling the sensation of the 4 seasons through my heart. It is interesting because you also learn other various aspects of Japanese culture through the tea ceremony such as decorative flowers, incense, hanging scrolls, and the kimono.
Tea Ceremony Qualification
It takes about a year to learn the basics of the tea ceremony. Hearing that, it seems easy, but actually, there are many ways to conduct a tea ceremony. The different variations depend upon the season, utensils, and the type of green tea. Urasenke teaches over 30 variations of the tea ceremony. If one considers the different seasons, the amount of variations doubles. Even if one learns all the variations, one must continue to practice the basics of otemae (the manner in which the tea ceremony is performed) so that one can strive towards perfection. Continuous practice allows one to properly deal with unexpected situations or mistakes. I visit my teacher’s house once a week in order to further hone my skills.
Urasenke offers 3 certifications as an instructor. Students can receive separate qualifications as well. (http://www.urasenke.or.jp/textb/culic/)
Wouldn’t it be better to learn from a teacher who is qualified in order to truly experience the complexity and depth of a tea ceremony?
At Tea Ceremony KOTO, the staff possess many certifications such as 2nd Degree Instructor from Urasenke, Master of Misho-Ryu style Japanese flower arrangement, and Master of Wearing Kimonos by the Foundation for Promoting Japanese Culture and the Traditional Garment of Japan.
Please ask any questions that you may have during the session. English is OK!