Tea Journal

Ro - The Hearth of Sado

Posted on March 21, 2018 at 7:05 AM

Every three months the seasons change.

In the Northern hemisphere, around November (or even earlier), temperatures begin to drop and it starts getting colder and colder as the Winter Solstice approaches. 

With colder temperatures, a source of heat becomes even more necessary than usual.

The standard mode of heating during winter months are either using electric, a gas stove/heater or a good old hearth. 

If you spent the majority of your life living on a tropical island like myself, then you're probably not very familiar with what a hearth is. 

A hearth (pronounced \ ˈhärth \) is the floor of a fireplace or the stone area enclosing a fireplace. This is typically where people gather during winter months to keep warm from the harsh Winter weather. 

In Sado, Japanese Tea Ceremony, the hearth is called Ro, 炉. 

Essentially, the Ro is a square fire pit which has been sunken into the floor. It is situated between the tea host and the tea guests.

All authentic Japanese Tea Houses and Tea Rooms come equipped with one. It remains concealed below the tatami mat for the majority of the year. Until ritto (the start of winter) when the Ro is opened.

This happens in early November. 

During this time, the Ro serves a dual function.

Not only does it heat the water used in the tea ceremony but it also serves to heat the room and keep both the tea host and guests warm.

For tea ceremony the kama (cast iron kettle) can be placed in one of two ways: either sitting in the fire pit (see above) or suspended from a chain attached to a hook in the ceiling (see below).

As the days get warmer, the kama begins its journey from the Ro back up to the summer brazier.

About mid-March the Tsurigama, or hanging kettle is used. 

When hanging, it can either be suspended by a long chain hanging from the ceiling of the tea room or, similarly, by a long bamboo shaft with a wooden lever called a 'kozaru' (see image below). 

Additionally, since the Ro is situated in the floor, any temae (the procedure of making tea) involving the use of the Ro has to be conducted in seiza (the Japanese traditional formal way of sitting, with knees bent, legs folded under thigh and buttocks resting on the ankles.)

This position is a real challenge for me but I did manage to get through a few temae sessions even though my feet fell asleep on multiple occasions and I had to take a few breaks in between.

See pictures below. 


Opening the Ro changes almost everything in the way the tea ceremony is performed. It is very interesting to observe and experience the changing of the seasons throughout the practice of the tea ceremony.

With Winter officially coming to an end, I suspect the Ro will eventually be ritually cleansed and covered until next winter. I give thanks for the experience and I look forward to learning more about the way of tea and the various rituals for the Spring.

Stay intune,

the Tea Lady

Nadya Dee

Categories: Japanese Tea Ceremony