Culture Student Engagement Traditions

Chanoyu – Japanese Tea Ceremony

By Madeline Xi Cui Friedman

The Way of Tea Club in the Evergreen State College teaches students Formal Japanese Tea Ceremonies, which creates an atmosphere of cultural awareness that participants would not otherwise experience. This club was originally created to share knowledge about Japanese Tea Ceremony traditions, including mannerisms, Japanese history and art. In addition to inquiring about the coordinator’s sense of purpose in creating this club, I interviewed club participants during the weekly meetings to help illuminate the club’s culture.

Jaye Hashimoto was a coordinator for The Way of Tea Club until Spring 2016. Phelan and Phoebe of the Club shared the story of how they reintroduced The Way of Tea Club after it briefly disbanded. Jaye and Phelan previously attended Japanese Tea Ceremony Class at Evergreen taught by Tomoko Hirai Ulmer who is a Japanese Studies Professor and introduced the club to her students in Fall 2015. Phoebe met Phalen in Fall of 2016 in a Russian program. All of them started being part of the Way of Tea as members at different times while attending Evergreen.

Jaye, who is half Japanese and half American had a desire to learn about their roots while Phalen was interested in learning about the philosophy of tea, especially its roots in Zen Buddhism and the way tea was used as a stimulant to help keep monks awake and focused during meditation. Phoebe has a huge interest in tea culture and wanted to research and learn about Japanese tea.

Jaye noted that the club was created by two Evergreen Alumni who wanted to find time and a place to learn and practice Japanese Tea ceremony and Japanese culture separately from their program.

Jaye shared a quote by Sen no Rikyū, a tea master who criticized the nobility for the excessive money they spent on tea and tea rooms and returned the ceremony to its roots: “one time one meaning this will only happen once.” For Jaye, this means the purpose of the ceremony is to embrace the moment, even if though “it’s something fleeting,” and understand and enjoy the company you have at that moment. Therefore, in preparing a tea ceremony performance it takes several hours of dedication for a host to prepare to welcome the guest.

There are many rituals involved in tea ceremonies. The guest must wash their hands and mouth outside of the hut from a basin of fresh water prepared by the host. It is important that these preparations be made early, because the water is supposed to be most pure at five in the morning. A traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony in a traditional garden and hut would take four hours of preparations, and is supposed to take a significant portion of the day.

Some of the rules of a ceremony are that both the host and hostess are to wear traditional Kimonos made from silk, gaita which are traditional tabi socks, and an obi or sash. If the hostess does not have a kimono, they are to wear their own culture’s formal attire during the ceremony.

About the Author

FireShot Capture 1 - Submission - Madeli_ -
Madeline Friedman

Nationality: Chinese American
Personal background: Third Culture Kid adoptee
Realms of study: Media integrate with Environmental Conservation and Sustainability
Personal photo (if willing).

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