Chanoyu (茶の湯) — or the tea ceremony — is well-known to Japanese green tea lovers.  Simply stated, it is a ceremony to gather together and share green tea matcha.  But those seeking a more expansive knowledge of Chanoyu realize that it’s a ceremony immersed in a millennium of Japanese history, tradition and cultural philosophy.

With the modern understanding of Chanoyu, much less is known about the concept of its temae, also known as the Japanese tea ceremony performance.  The two studies go hand-in-hand. So, when you think upon Chanoyu, it is necessary to also consider the elegance of the ceremonial temae — the performance of Chanoyu — from preparation to completion.  

Within the tea ceremony temae are essential tea tools required to properly orchestrate the artistic dance that is Chanoyu.  These essential tea tools are called Chadōgu (茶道具).  Those familiar with the Japanese tea ceremony understand that it takes a large number and variety of tea tools, no matter how formal or informal the intended tea ceremony. 

When you consider the Chadōgu of the tea ceremony, I bet what comes to mind are the well-known tools such as the Chasen bamboo whisk, the Chawan (茶碗) tea bowl or even Japanese green tea matcha powder itself.  Those items are considered “high-ranking” tea tools, which I’ll explain later.

But complementing the high-ranking tea tools, the Chanoyu couldn’t be accomplished without the use of Chadōgu which would be considered modest and low-ranking

That is what I want to reveal to our readers: A greater understanding about some of the simple, humble, and low-ranking Chadōgu of the tea ceremony temae with which you may not be as familiar.

What are Chadōgu?
What does it mean to be a low-ranking Chadōgu?
What is the importance of Chadōgu for Chanoyu?

This is what I hope you will discover.  And since essential — yet humble — tea tools are needed at the preparation stage for Chanoyu, that is where we will begin.

An Understanding of Chadōgu

Every tea master and simple practitioner owns various tools essential to perform the Chanoyu temae.  Some tools are necessary for every ceremony, while others are required for specific occasions and seasons of gathering.

For a basic understanding, Chadōgu can be assembled into different categories of the tea ceremony.  Most tea masters place them into the following:

  1. temae dōgu (点前道具), which are tools to make tea
  2. mizuya dōgu (水屋道具), which are tools for the preparation room 
  3. kaiseki dōgu (懐石道具), which are tools for the chakaiseki meal
  4. machiai dōgu (待合道具), which are tools for the guest waiting room
  5. sōshoku dōgu (装飾道具), which are tools for decorating the tea room

All partakers of the Japanese Tea Ceremony are interested in making tea, so that is where we begin.  However, before we pull out our wonderful Japanese Green Tea matcha, Chasen bamboo whisk and Chawan bowl to whip up a delicious bowl of our favorite beverage, we must appreciate the basics of the dogu (tools) . . . the very basics.  And that means starting at the low-ranking and modest Chadōgu, which are an essential foundation of the tea ceremony temae.

To be concluded in Chanoyu, Temae, and Chadogu – Part 2

Photo “Informal, educational tea gathering” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License to the photographer Jason Riedy and is being posted unaltered (source)