Tea House Etiquette / by William Cook

Spring brings tea house times

This is the first summer that the tea house has been ready to be occupied. We are having lots of fun discovering how that works. Historically, tea houses have been special places, even sacred in many ways. Our use will broaden that meaning by embracing the space in a more casual atmosphere, but still with all respect and appreciation it is due.

Our multi-purpose interior

When touring the garden recently a young visiting Japanese student exclaimed on seeing the tea house, “It is like the one my Grandmother has!” I asked him if he practiced or knew tea ceremony (chanoyu) and he replied, “No! Too many rules!” and went on to explain that was why many young Japanese don’t participate.

First Sweet Pea cutting for the tokonoma

Times are changing. Rules must bend or art can’t be created. We will employ the traditional rules as guidelines and adapt those to fit each event. Most of all, we will try to retain the essence of “Tea” – serve as good hosts – and present events tailored to our guests.

Uphill perspective from tea house

When the amado (shutter doors) are open and the water garden is in full view, we have observed that the outdoor sukiya most often captures the complete attention of the guests. They become quiet and are drawn to simply gazing out into the garden.

Serene and peaceful sights and sounds

We tell guests it is fine to be quiet and we encourage it – to take in the magic. It is the door to a meditative state and brings with it the garden’s power of healing. These quiet moments are as important to “Tea” as the moments when prescribed or more casual verbal exchanges occur.

“Please, sit and contemplate – look, listen, and feel.”