Chanoyu has been referred to as the "Japanese
Tea Ceremony" for many years but the word literally means
hot water for tea. The simple art of Chanoyu is really a synthesis
of many Japanese arts with the focus of preparing and serving
a bowl of tea with a pure heart.
Tea was first introduced to Japan from China
with Buddhism in the sixth century. It wasn't until 1191 that
tea really took hold in Japan with the return from China of the
Zen priest Eisai (1141-1215). Eisai, the founder of the Rinzai
sect of Zen Buddhism in Japan, introduced powdered tea and tea
seeds that he brought back with him from China. The tea seeds
were planted by his friend the priest Myoe (1173-1232) at the
Kozanji temple in the hills northwest of Kyoto.
The tea master Sen Rikyu (1522-1591) developed
wabicha or the style of tea that reflects a simple and
quiet taste. It is this simple style of tea that is practiced
and taught in Japan and throughout the world today.
The principles of Wa Kei Sei Jaku (harmony, respect, purity
and tranquility) are the principles that practitioners of Chanoyu
integrate into their study of tea and into their daily lives.
Among the many styles of Chanoyu that are
practice today, the Urasenke School of Tea, under the leadership
of Sen Soshitsu XVI, the sixteenth descendent of Sen Rikyu, is
one of the most popular. For the past forty years Sen Genshitsu,
his father and past head tea master, has traveled around the world
introducing Chanoyu to many people for the first time. He believes
that when people come together and share a bowl of tea, peace
can be realized.
Sen Rikyu said that tea is nothing more
than boiling water, making tea and drinking it. It is this simplicity
that makes the study of Chanoyu a lifelong pursuit.