A while back, I had the honor of being invited to a private Japanese tea ceremony (Chado) in Kyoto.
It was a crisp, November morning and Kyoto was adorned with glorious palette of vibrant autumn colors.
The place was a traditional Japanese room set in a tranquil garden in the city. A meandering narrow stone pathway lead the way to the room where the ceremony was to be held.
I was warmly welcomed into the room. The sensei and two of her assistants, dressed in elegant kimonos, gracefully entered. Then they meticulously set about preparing matcha tea, serving it ever so gently in beautiful cups along with small portions of exquisite sweets.
I remember making a comment about the silhouette of the outside garden’s momiji (Japanese maple) leaves shadows cast on the room’s shoji screen. The sensei, giving me her full attention, began to talk about their ephemeral beauty and the solitary feeling they instilled. She told me how fortunate she felt that this moment had presented itself to us, though ever so fleetingly.
The experience was like poetry in motion — every movement so refined, every sound so gentle, every taste so delicate, every look so subtle. The outside world faded away and time seemed to slow down.
The sensei had given me a pleasing atmosphere without distractions, as though nothing else mattered except the moment: the embodiment of Zen saying “Ichi-go, Ichi-e“, roughly translating to “one encounter, one life” — living each moment as though it is a once in a lifetime experience.
The Japanese tea ceremony is by far more than just having a good cup of green tea in a Japanese setting. Neither a ceremony nor a ritual, it is truly an art form and a way of life.
Principles of Chado
- Harmony — WA 和
- Respect — KEI 敬
- Purity — SEI 清
- Tranquility — JYAKU 寂
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