History of Japanese Etiquette in Tea Ceremony
Learning to serve or drink a cup ot tea takes months of instruction and embodies a history of Japanese etiquette, says Yaeko Shiozuki of Japan, a woman whose ancestors founded the tea ceremony. Shiozuki, 58, has 3000 tea ceremony students in Tokyo and has used her knowledge of this art and its philosophy to write seven books on manners and etiquette. The ceremony, dating back to the 15th century, enjoys a steady popularity among Japanese men and women of all ages, she said. Founded in Zen Buddhism and long practiced for its spiritual value, it is also a source of good manners in private Japanese life. The ritual includes the proper way to walk, turn around, sit, handle drinking and eating utensils, bow, and many other forms of behavior prescribed by the strict code of etiquette for polite society in the Orient.
“It is true that young people in Japan today lack knowledge in etiquette, but that is because there is so little opportunity to learn or use it in the home,” said Mrs. Shiozuki as she relaxed in a rattan chair in the spacious, carpeted lobby to her tea ceremony school. “Today's parents grew up in the World War II years when there were few chances to learn this etiquette.” Mrs. Shiozuki, however, comes from an illustrious family whose ties to tradition have transcended wars and the coming of Western ways. Her father, Soshitsu Sen, is the 14th generation of the family that founded the Urasenke Tea Ceremony, the most prominent of various styles, with an estimated five million followers. Her brother, also taking the name Soshitsu Sen, now holds the venerable position that includes among its privileges performing the tea ceremony for visiting state guests.
Mrs. Shiozuki's name became a household word with the publication in 1970 of her bestseller “A Guide to Ceremonies,” which gives step-by-step instructions for weddings, funerals and other formal occasions. Seated on traditional tatami or straw mats in a Tokyo tea room, officers of Japanese Self-Defense Forces hear lecture on manners from Mrs. Yaeko Shiozuki, whose ancestors founded the tea ceremony. Her other books tell how to give presents, write letters, wear kimonos, meet people, associate with relatives and behave in different areas of society. She also tells how to live in crowded apartment complexes without becoming angry or frustrated. Japanese manners have had to undergo substantial changes with the move from living in traditional straw-matted, or tatami, rooms to the beds, high tables and chairs of Western-style homes, Mrs. Shiozuki said. But she insists that the basics of modern etiquette must still be founded in the tea ceremony.
“It teaches us how the hostess and guest can make each other feel as welcome as possible. It is more than just actions, but something deep down,” she explained. Although the tea ceremony originally was an art practiced only by upper class men, today tea schools have become girls’ finishing schools. Mrs. Shiozuki's grandfather began to admit women to tea classes during the Meiji era (1862-1912). Now women are 80 per cent of its followers. In the years of Japan's rapid Westernization the number of male students dropped greatly, but now it has begun to increase. “I think, there is a feeling of wanting to go back to the home town and do something the same way their ancestors did,” said Hiroo Masuda, a tea master in one of Mrs. Shiozuki's three schools. “After World War II Japan became too Americanized and threw away many of the old traditions.” There are about a thousand places to learn the tea ceremony in Tokyo alone, with enrollments averaging about 20 to 30 people. –By Kathryn Tolbert, Tokyo (AP), 1976
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