Inseparable from the tea ceremony, the chashitsu is distinguished from the tea house, chaya. In Japanese, chashitsu refers to the room where tea celebrations take place.
The tea ceremony is practiced in a separate room, separated from the main house: the chashitsu.
An island in the center of the house
The tea pavilion, chashitsu, is separated from the rest of the residence by a stone garden, called roji. Crossing the garden should allow guests to prepare for the ceremony. The kekkai, a small stone wrapped in rope, marks the transition between the outside world and the universe of tea. The ideal place for positioning a tea pavilion would be a place surrounded by nature.
Before entering the room, guests must purify themselves, by rinsing their mouths and washing their hands. The entrance to the room is often low and narrow, thus forcing guests to stoop, to leave any sense of superiority and pride outside the chashitsu. It is the same for status; in ancient Japan, samurai had to discard their swords, symbols of power, before entering chashitsu.
Simplicity and refinement
The size of the chashitsu room is variable and can be composed of 2 to 4 tatami. Inside are a space dedicated to preparations for the tea ceremony, mizuya, and an alcove, tokonoma. A fireplace is used to boil water for tea and heats the room in winter.
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The decoration is simple and uncluttered: roll of artistic calligraphy, kakejiku, plant creations, chabana, or ikebana. The tokonoma is considered an essential part of the chashitsu, and the rule is that the most important guest should take the place closest to the alcove. The tokonoma is made of wood or tatami and if the room has windows, only daylight filters through shoji, wooden sliding doors, and paper walls. The host is seated in front of the hearth.
Simple in appearance, the meeting in the tea pavilion, chaji, can last from 3 to 5 hrs, depending on what is served there (sweets, kaiseki cuisine). The piece, the elements, the materials, the gestures, are sober, but they are carefully chosen.
A spiritual shelter
Teahouses were introduced during the Sengoku period (mid 15th to late 16th century). The owners of a chashitsu used to name them, using the characters an 庵 (hermitage) or do 堂 (hall). An initiative that aims to be part of the spirit of the hermitage or the spiritual retreat in the mountains, in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city. The diversity of materials used in the construction of the chashitsu also reflects a desire to make the best use of the bare minimum.
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