Ichi go Ichi e


 Our First Full Formal Tea Ceremony Gathering

On December 1st, 2018, after months of preparation and practice, we were graciously gifted with the once in a lifetime opportunity to experience a full Japanese Tea gathering at the home of our Tea Teacher, Nagamasu Sensei. 

Japanese Tea gatherings can be separated into two categories. First, you have the informal tea gathering chakai (茶会, tea meeting) which is a relatively simple course of hospitality that includes wagashi  (confections), usucha (thin tea), and perhaps a light meal. Most Japanese persons have probably experienced this as they are often held on various occasions throughout the year. 

Then you have the formal tea gathering chaji (茶事, tea event). A chaji is a much more extensive tea gathering which includes sumitemae (charcoal procedure), a full-course kaiseki (meal) followed by confections, thick tea, and then finally thin tea. A chaji can last up to four hours and requires both the host and the guests to go through a series of ritualistic movements over time. 

Needless to say, as a tea ceremony enthusiast, we were extremely eager to observe and absorb as much as we could and so with a bit of trepidation and a lot of determination we ventured forth and rose to the occasion.

Nagamasu Sensei's home (where we do our weekly tea practice) comes equipped with a chashitsu (tea room) as well as a tsukubai (purifying basin) in a small roji (garden) which is adjacent to the tea room's mizuya (preparation room). The entrance to her home served as the machiai (waiting area for guests) and that is where the roji-zori, garden slippers made of rice straw, (pictured above) were placed. 

the machiai -

when all guests have arrived, the bell (pictured above) is rung three times to signal to the host that they are ready. 


Ryuurei Style

Although the Ro had already been opened for the season, for our first chaji we decided to use chairs and tables to make the day more comfortable for our guests (and for me as well).

Even though we were not going to be doing the sumitemae (charcoal procedure) or the koicha (thick tea) the entire event would still take approximately two hours and we wanted it to be a pleasant experience for all involved. 

Ichi go Ichi e 一期一会

Great attention should be given to a tea gathering, which we can speak of as "one time, one meeting" (ichigo, ichie). Even though the host and guests may see each other often socially, one day's gathering can never be repeated exactly. Viewed this way, the meeting is indeed a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. The host, accordingly, must in true sincerity take the greatest care with every aspect of the gathering and devote himself entirely to ensuring that nothing is rough. The guests, for their part, must understand that the gathering cannot occur again and, appreciating how the host has flawlessly planned it, must also participate with true sincerity. This is what is meant by "one time, one meeting."
Chanoyu Ichie Shū

This proverb has always had a profound meaning to me and my journey here in Japan. 

So much so that I even got it inscribed on my left arm. 

So it was only logical that it should be the theme of my very first chaji

Luckily (and not surprisingly), Nagamasu Sensei had an ichigo iche kakemono (hanging scroll) in her possession which she carefully hung in the tokonoma (alcove) for the day's event.


The Meal

Thanks to Nagamasu sensei and her amazing cooking skills, our guests were treated to an assortment of delicious foods including sashimi (raw fish), tofu, rice and a special plate with something from the sea (shrimp) and something from the mountains (kinkan - a kind of small citrus fruit).


The Ceremony


The matcha used for the tea ceremony was a blend of Uji tea from Kyoto which I received from a dear friend in Kagoshima and the matcha which is used in  Chinshin Ryu temae. 


Pictured here are a few of the essential items used in the Japanese tea ceremony: the chawan (tea bowl), hishaku (bamboo ladle), koboshi (waste water receptacle), and the chasen (tea whisk). 

 Tabako bon

The tabako bon is a tray used in smoking kizami, the traditional shredded tobacco. It contains the kiseru (smoking pipe), a ceramic charcoal container and pot with water for the ash.  It is used to symbolise the space for the main guest. 


Japanese traditional tea sweets are known as wagashi: beautiful, bite-size confections meant to set the aesthetic stage for the tea event and compliment the, oftentimes, bitter taste of the tea itself. 


At a formal tea gathering the dora (gong) is used to announce to the guests waiting in the machiai that all preparations have been completed and it is time to reenter the tea room for the tea ceremony presentation. 

Aside from a few miscalculations the ceremony went pretty well. 

My guests even asked for another bowl of tea which I hadn't prepared for but gladly obliged. 

After the ceremony was officially closed we all sat around and chatted for a bit over kocha (black tea) and cookies. 

They all got the opportunity to ask me questions about Jamaica and Jamaican culture which I did my absolute best to answer. 

Lucky for me, one of the guests is a Japanese English teacher with whom I teach and another is one of my English conversation lesson students who has really good English so communication went smoothly. 

After we said our good-byes, the main guest (who is also a student of Nagamasu sensei) and I stayed around to help Nagamasu sensei clean up. 



I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to be having the once in a lifetime experiences that I am having on this tea ceremony journey. 

I am also thankful to my friends and family who joined me virtually from Jamaica in the middle of the night to share in this experience with me. 

I am also indebted to my three amazing guests who took the time out of their busy weekends to help me create this once in a lifetime memory. 

And last but not least I am eternally gratefully for and indebted to my teacher, Nagamasu sensei who so selflessly welcomed me into her home, prepared a delicious meal, and continues to teach me all that I need to know. 

Words can never express what this means to me. 

Tea & Love,