Kuchi-kiri (tea ceremony)
In this page, I’d like to talk about Kuchi-kiri (tea ceremony).
In Japan, special tea ceremonies are called Chaji and this Kuchi-kiri (tea ceremony) is called “Kuchi-kiri-no-Chaji” in Japanese.
The Chaji is a long formal tea ceremony which includes Kaiseki cuisine and two types of tea (thick tea and thin tea).
Among these Chaji, this Kuchi-kiri is generally held at the beginning of November and considered the most formal Chaji.
Because it celebrates the New Year of Cha-no-yu, which we also call Sa-dou (literally, the way of tea). In Sa-dou, the New Year starts at the beginning of November, the best season to start using new tea leaves.
In Shizuoka prefecture, this Kuchi-kiri (tea ceremony) is celebrated as a festival related to Tokugawa Ieyasu (the founder of the Edo Shogunate) .
New year in Cha-no-yu
Although the climate of Japan is very humid, we have very distinctive four seasons and we have enjoyed all the seasons to the maximum.
Probably, this mentality has derived from Cha-no-yu (Sa-dou) which extremely esteems seasonality.
Cha-no-yu (Sa-dou) requires us to use all five senses .
For example, the flower arrangement and Kakejiku scroll on the alcove are for sight. The sound of preparing tea is for auditory sense. The aroma of tea and incense are for smell. The warmth and texture of the tea cup are for touch. The tea and cake are for taste.
This sensibility polishes our sense of seasonality and as a result seasonability.
In Cha-no-yu (Sa-dou), we divide a year into two main seasons: the sunken hearth (Ro) season and the brazier (Furo) season. Traditionally, November to April belong to the former and May to October belong to the latter. Different manners to make tea, utensils and other equipment apply for each season.
Thus the New year starts from November in Cha-no-yu (Sa-dou).
However, why does the New year start from November in Cha-no-yu (Sa-dou)?
The reason is simple.
Because they open the seal of the special tea jar and start to use the new tea leaves in November. Incidentally, Kuch-kiri means “open the seal”.
For the Kuchi-kiri (tea ceremony), we newly arrange the exterior and interior of the tea ceremony house.
At the beginning of the 17th century, Tokugawa Ieyasu solemnly conducted this seal opening ceremony at his Sumpu castle. In this ceremony, they opened the pot which has kept the special Ten-chamade from the tea leaves newly harvested in spring time.
As is usual with feudal lords in this period, Ieyasu (who is also known as a great lover of Miso) was a great lover of tea.
This ceremony has been kept until today in Shizuoka prefecture as a part of local festivals. Even today you can see a parade of many Kimono-wearing people walking along the street heading for Sumpu castle.
Of course, the center of this parade is the special tea jar.