Tea ceremony still manages to have an inexplicable allure for both foreigners and Japanese. This is perhaps because it’s a ritual performed only by people with years of experience behind the screened walls of a traditional Japanese room.
Yet a temple in Nara has managed to take this fascinating practice a step further, and temple visitors are invited to participate.
On January 15, the first tea ceremony of the year — called Ochamoroshiki — took place at Saidaiji Shrine in Nara. With 40 participants, it was a ritual which featured one interesting characteristic. As the ritual unfolded, guests passed around a huge cup of green tea — 40 centimeters wide and weighing more than five kilos!
One might expect the guests to be presented with individual chawan, a tea cup which resembles a bowl that would fit comfortably into your two hands cupped together, as it is done in a normal tea ceremony.
However, according to the Saidaiji website, its own unique tradition dates back to 1239, when the Buddhist monk Eison made a tea offering to the gods.
A key idea behind the tradition is 一味和合. This loosely translates to this idea: as opposed to each one having their own tea with slightly different flavor, by sharing the same taste from the giant cup of tea, harmony is achieved among the participants.
If nothing else, the 40 guests who attended certainly seemed to bond as they passed around the unusually large, round tea cup, which even adults struggled to lift!
One participant, a 49-year-old housewife from Seika in Kyoto prefecture, shared her experience: “I managed to drink the tea because my neighbor helped me. It certainly seems like there is something to be learned from this ritual!”
Well, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but certainly the unusual tradition provides a unique experience in Japan.
(Click here to view the original article in Japanese.)