Chashitsu (tea room or tea house) cannot be talked about without tea. Saichou, a Buddhist priest who accompanied the envoy to Tang China to study in the Heian period (794-1185) and later became known as Dengyoudaishi, brought back tea seeds, which is the beginning of tea history in Japan. Saichou is said to have planted tea in Sakamoto at the foot of Mount Hiei.
When Emperor Saga made a royal visit to Bonshakuji Temple in Kanzaki, Oumi-no-kuni in the 6th year of Kounin (815), Eichuu, Daisouzu, decocted and presented it, which is the oldest surviving record of the tea ceremony.
The tea culture in Japan became obsolete for a while, but the Buddhist monk Eisai (Yousai) returned from Song China (Southern Song) in the Kenkyuu year 2 (1191) and cultivated the tea he brought back at Reisenji Temple in Hizen-no-kuni. In the Jougen year 5 (1211), he wrote the first tea book in Japan, “Kissa-youjouki” (Tea-taking regimen records). With Eisai as a trigger, the custom of tea drinking became popular in Zen Buddhist temples during the Kamakura period (1185-1333).
It’s said that the tea culture that Eisai touched on in Song China was the matcha (ground green tea) that was enjoyed at Zen Buddhist temples, while the tea that was introduced in the Heian period was solidified mochicha or dancha (cake tea).
During the Muromachi period (1336-1573), tea was served at such as kaisho (function room). At the Nankou-kaisho in the Muromachi-dono, the residence of General Ashikaga of the Muromachi Shogunate, there was a “chanoyu-dokoro” (tea ceremony place) for making tea.
Reference: The picture scroll “Bokiekotoba” Vol. 5 produced in Shouhei year 6 / Kannou year 2 (1351).
In addition, the event called “toucha,” which is a stylish play to drink and predict whether the type of tea is “honcha” (authentic tea) or “hicha” (non-branded tea), has gained popularity among the samurai of zabara (self-indulgence) who became an emerging power during the Muromachi period. Tea produced in Toganoo (Togao or Tsugao), which has a climate suitable for growing tea trees, was called “honcha” because of its high quality, and other brands were called “hicha.” Toucha even became a gambling and boomed so much that it was eventually banned by the Shogunate.
Events called “chakabuki” similar to “toucha” to guess brands and production areas based on their scent and flavour are held in tea‐producing districts all over Japan even today.
The venue where people gathered for “toucha” was called “kaisho”. The architecture was not specially designed for the tea ceremony, but you can say that it was an opportunity for chashitsu to be born eventually.
Later, tea-taking became Sadou (the way of the tea ceremony) and developed as a culture unique to Japan together with chashitsu.
Author: Takuya Nagata.Amazon ProfileFollow @nagatackle
Novel writer, Creator. Graduated from UCA, the UK’s university. Discussed Japanese minimalism in the senior thesis. Founder of “MINIЯISM” (minirism), the art movement that contributes to the development of societies, such as ecology and lifestyle. Covered various fields as a writer in different parts of Europe, and later launched the knowledge hub “The Minimalist.”
Once travelled to Brazil and trained football at CFZ do Rio (Centro de Futebol Zico Sociedade Esportiva) in Rio de Janeiro. Played soccer for the Urawa Reds (Urawa Red Diamonds), one of the biggest football clubs in Japan, and toured Europe. Retired at a young age and voyaged alone to England. Established careers as journalist, football coach, consultant, etc. across Europe such as Spain. Knowledgeable in creative and technology fields as well. The founder of “Propulsive Football” (PROBALL), the world’s first-ever competitive mixed football, facilitating diversity and spirit for equal participation in society.