The Urasenke School of Tea, a prominent school of Japanese tea ceremony, stands as a bastion of tradition and reverence in a fast-paced, modern world. Rooted in centuries of culture and philosophy, the Urasenke tradition represents a profound connection to nature, simplicity, and the spirit of hospitality.
At the heart of the Urasenke tradition lies “Ryurei,” a graceful and distinctive form of the Japanese tea ceremony. “Ryurei, known as standing etiquette, refers to a style of the Japanese tea ceremony performed using a table and chairs.
In this article, we will provide a detailed explanation, using video demonstrations, of the procedures, especially focusing on the “Misonodana” temae, which was devised by the 14th-generation Grand Master of the Urasenke School, Tan Tan-Sai, in 1952.
The Historical Background of Ryurei
Ryurei, an integral part of the Urasenke School’s tea tradition, has its roots deeply intertwined with Japanese history. This standing procedure, marked by its elegance and unique approach, originated in the early 20th century as a response to the changing cultural landscape of Japan. It emerged as a modern interpretation of the traditional seated tea ceremony, reflecting the evolving societal dynamics and the need for a more flexible and accessible way to practice the art of tea.
In 1872 (Meiji 5), the 11th-generation Grand Master of the Urasenke School, Gen Gen-Sai, introduced the practice of Ryurei to the world. Gen Gen-Sai created a seated table set called a “tenchaban,” which included a table and chairs for the preparation and serving of tea. He first showcased this chair-table-style temae at the Kyoto Exposition, specifically to cater to international tourists visiting Japan.
Since then, the Urasenke tradition has continued to innovate and present various designs of tables for Ryurei, all of which provide a unique and accessible way to experience the art of the Japanese tea ceremony.
- Take the tea bowl at its 4:30 o’clock position with your right hand and bring towards you, then take 9 o’clock position with left hand and 3 o’clock with right hand. Place it down in the center of the table allowing space for your tea container.
- Take the tea container with your right hand, holding from the top. Place it in front of the tea bowl.
- Fold “fukusa” for purification and purify the tea container.
- Refold “fukusa” for purification of the tea scoop.
- Make sure your arm is straight in front of you.
- Take the tea whisk out of the tea bowl. When doing so, use your entire upper body by moving it slightly back and then forward to place the whisk on the table next to the tea container.
- Take your tea bowl closer to you.
- Place your “fukusa” down on the table, right side of the tea bowl.
- Take the ladle with your left hand. First, pick up the handle at the end and bring the cup until level to the table, then lift the ladle up.
- Bring the ladle in front of you, in the center of your body. Hold it up with your left hand securing the handle right beneath its bamboo joint, while right hand touching the end of the handle with your fingers lined up. Pause for a second.
- Move the lid rest with your right hand, closer to the corner of the table.
- Use the “fukusa” to open the lid of the kettle and put the lid on the lid rest.
- Place “fukusa” on the left side of the tea bowl and pick up the linen from the tea bowl. Place the linen on the lid of the kettle.
- Bring the ladle sideways in front of you, and slide your right hand to the joint, which is approximately in the middle of the handle.
- Scoop half cup of the hot water from the kettle and pour it all in the tea bowl.
- Rest the cup of the ladle on top of the kettle’s opening. With your right index finger and thumb, pinch the handle right below the joint, and place the ladle down.
- Purify the tea whisk. Examine the tines by lifting the whisk twice and then rinse the whisk inside the tea bowl back and forth a few times. Make a circle inside the tea bowl and take the whisk out.
- Pick up the tea bowl and discard the water into the wastewater jar with your left hand.
- Pick up the linen from the kettle lid and start wiping the tea bowl. Three turns on the left side of your body and then bring the tea bowl in the center of your body to complete the last half turn. Wipe inside the tea bowl.
- Take the linen back on top of the kettle lid.
- Pick up the tea scoop with your right hand.
- “お菓子をどうぞ。Okashi wo dozo” (Please have the sweets.) to the guest.
- Pick up the tea container with your left hand and open the cover. Place the cover on the right side of the tea bowl close to you, then scoop the green tea powder twice with the tea scoop.
- While doing so, hold the tea container at the 9 o’clock of the tea bowl to avoid spilling.
- Open the lid of the freshwater jar. First, hold the knob with your right hand and bring the lid closer to you. Next, your left hand holds the 9 o’clock position of the lid and rotates the lid to a vertical position. Finally with right hand, take the 10 o’clock position of the lid and place the lid on the left side of the freshwater jar, leaning against the jar.
- Scoop a full cup of hot water from the kettle using the ladle.
- Pour half cup of hot water into the tea bowl and pour the rest back into the kettle.
- Place the ladle cup on the opening of the kettle and this time, make a “V” shape with your right hand with the handle of the ladle resting between your right thumb and the index finger. Lower down to place the handle on the kettle.
- Whisk the tea with back-and-forth motion inside the tea bowl. As you finish whisking, raise your whisk slightly to brush the surface of the lather on top, which will make the bubbles disappear and make the surface smoother.
- Pick up the tea bowl with your right hand, place it on your left palm and turn twice clockwise to face the front of the tea bowl to the guest.
- The assistant takes the tea bowl to your guest. When guest says “お点前頂戴致します。Otemae Chodai Itashimasu” (allow me to have this tea you prepared), then you will bow.
- With the first sip of the guest, you take your “fukusa” from the table and put it back on your belt.
- When the tea bowl is back, pick it up with your right hand, place it on your left palm and glance inside. Then adjust your right hand position to the 3 o’clock of the tea bowl to place it down on the table.
- Pour half a cup of hot water.
- Place the ladle on top of the kettle with your right hand pinching the handle.
- Pick up the tea bowl and discard the hot water into the wastewater jar.
- At this point, your main guest would say “お仕舞下さい Oshimai Kudasai” (please close), so you acknowledge it by bowing while still holding the tea bowl in your left hand.
- Place the tea bowl down and say “お仕舞いたします Oshimai Itashimasu” (I am closing the tea ceremony).
- Grab the ladle from top of the handle, and scoop fresh water from the water jar.
- Bring the ladle back on the opening of the kettle, pull your right hand an inch (2 cm) towards you, open your right thumb and swing to align with the rest of the fingers, and then pull the right arm from your elbow to slide your hand along with the ladle handle all the way to the end. Make a circle with your right thumb and fingers, and slowly place the handle down.
- Take the whisk and rinse inside the tea bowl, then check the tines once by lifting it up.
- Place the linen back into the tea bowl with your right hand.
- Take the whisk and place it inside the tea bowl.
- Take the tea scoop with your right hand.
- Take the “fukusa” with your left hand and fold to purify the tea scoop.
- Place the tea scoop with its face down back on the tea bowl.
- Pad the “fukusa” twice to get rid of any green tea powder.
- Put the “fukusa” back on the belt and reposition the tea container to its original position.
- Pick up the tea bowl with your right hand at 3 o’clock position, hold 9 o’clock position with your left hand and then take the 4:30 position to place the tea bowl next to the tea container.
- Grab the ladle from the top and scoop full cup of water from the freshwater jar, pour into the kettle. When pouring, make sure to hold the cup of the ladle approximately one cup above the kettle.
- Scoop full cup of hot water from the kettle and pour back in again.
- Pause with the ladle held upwards in front of you, in the center of your body.
- Close the lid of the kettle with your right hand.
- Move the lid rest to the original position.
- With your left hand, place the ladle back to its original position.
- Close the freshwater jar. With your right hand pick up the lid and bring it close to you while holding it vertically. Hold immediately below your right hand with your left hand. Rotate so that your right hand can pick the knob and close the water jar.
Click here to purchase Misonodana⇒徳増茶道具専門店
(You can purchase from Amazon’s English website in Japan).
The following books are recommended for those who wish to learn about the Urasenke Tea Ceremony in English.