In a formal tea ceremony, participants dress in a simple kimono or hakama as not to distract others during the ceremony.  ©TOKI

In a formal tea ceremony, participants dress in a simple kimono or hakama as not to distract others during the ceremony.  ©TOKI

Tea ceremony (called chadō or sadō) is one of Japan’s most enduring artistic traditions. More than a ritual for preparing and drinking tea, tea ceremony is a means to aesthetic appreciation and social interaction that has had a profound influence on other forms of Japanese art, cuisine and philosophy. Because tea rooms are usually adorned with wall scrolls and flowers, you will have a chance to not only learn about tea and the ceramics that hold the tea, but also about Japanese calligraphy and kadō (flower arrangement) should you participate in tea ceremony. Since tea ceremony is considered a formal occasion in Japan, participants are expected to dress and act their part.

1. Clothing choice

In Japanese culture, the kimono is worn in a formal or celebratory ceremony. In the case of tea ceremony, usually a plain or undecorated kimono is worn. Patterns are acceptable as long as the kimono is not flashy. For men, hakama are worn. White split-toe socks are worn by both men and women, and are taken off and changed out before heading into the tea ceremony room. If you do not own a kimono, western clothing is also acceptable in most situations. For the most part, you can use common sense when choosing clothing. Don’t wear anything that is too flashy or too casual. Women should not wear revealing clothing or skirts shorter than knee-length (which can also be problematic when sitting for long periods of time). Men are expected to show up in a suit and necktie.

Traditional Japanese sweets,  wagashi , are prepared on paper dishes called  kaishi.   ©TOKI

Traditional Japanese sweets, wagashi, are prepared on paper dishes called kaishi.  ©TOKI

2. Jewelry

No jewelry should be worn during tea ceremony. This includes hats, watches, rings, bracelets, necklaces, etc. This is because valuable tea sets are frequently used during the ceremony, and you don’t want to scratch it with your accessories. 

3. Perfume and makeup

You should also abstain from using makeup, perfume or cologne or anything with strong smells because those smells could interfere with and ruin the scent of the tea, and distract other participants.

4. Hairstyle

Except for those with short hair, tea ceremony participants are expected to tie their hair up in a bun. No accessories should be used; instead, black hair pins and hair ties should be used to hold the hairstyle in place. This is not just to prevent hair from falling into the tea or onto the confectionary, but also a form of respect to the host.

5. Manners

The host carefully presents the tea to the participant .  ©TOKI

The host carefully presents the tea to the participant .  ©TOKI

There are predetermined ways to enter the room, walk, stand, and bow during tea ceremony. Additionally, making the appropriate comments about for the flowers, the tea bowl, the hanging scrolls, and knowledge about the words on and authors of those wall scrolls, all of which have been carefully prepared by the host for the guest are also very important. For this reason, it is important to practice the ritual, prepare the appropriate clothing prior to attending tea ceremony. Furthermore, participants should expect to spend an entire day at a formal tea ceremony.

However, if you feel like this might be too daunting a task, don't worry! To help you get through a Japanese tea ceremony, TOKI has prepared a tea ceremony tour where you can relax and enjoy tea ceremony without worrying about the rituals and formalities, accompanied by a translator to guide you through each step. The event will simply be a fun experience for everyone to learn about a unique Japanese tradition.