Chashitsu (tea-ceremony room) (茶室)

"Chashitsu" is a facility built for a tea ceremony host (shujin) to invite and entertain guests with tea. Chashitsu used to be built in a Japanese garden usually with a pathway to it, but today they are built in various places: at hotels, in civic halls, and at the corner of some commercial buildings.

Although Japanese rooms (tatami-matted rooms) that are installed with a built-in hearth to learn or enjoy the tea ceremony are often called Chashitsu, this section describes mainly soan-style (small grass-thatched hut) teahouses with four-and-a-half mats or less.

Soan-style Chashitsu

Soan-style Chashitsu were built of simple materials (logs, bamboo, clay) as used in rural private homes. Light from the engawa (veranda) is shielded by a plastered clay wall in which windows are set to enable artistic control of the light, such as shitaji mado, or a window in which the inner structure of the plaster wall is shown; renji mado, or a window with a lattice; tsukiage mado, or a skylight window in the ceiling that can be opened by a stick. The tokonoma (alcove) used to be one ken (1.8 meters), but now varies in size around four or five shaku (1.2 or 1.5 meters), depending on the room structure, and its design also varies widely, and may include 'muro-doko' (a tokonoma plastered all over including the ceiling), 'hora-doko' (a cave-like tokonoma), 'kabe-doko' (tokonoma formed by only a wall), or 'fumikomi-doko' (a 'step-in' tokonoma). Nakabashira, or a small pillar standing inside the room, makes a boundary between the host's seat and the guests' seats. This setting helps to produce a spiritually rich space between the host and the guests.

Before Rikyu

Togudo in Jisho-ji Temple in the Higashiyama area, built by Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA, has a four-and-a-half tatami-mat room, which is said to be the origin of the tea ceremony room. Later, Juko MURATA created a four-and-a-half mat tea ceremony room as a small grass-thatched hut in the city.

SEN no Rikyu's Chashitsu

SEN no Rikyu established a unique form of Chashitsu. Rikyu pursued the spirit of Wabi-cha (the combination of Zen Buddhism and the way of drinking tea), and adopted koma (small tea rooms) of two mats or three mats that had only been used by Wabi-cha masters who owned no valuable tea utensils, and he finally created a two-mat tea room with a nijiriguchi (a cram-through doorway).

Chashitsu Taian (a National Treasure), which is said to have been created by SEN no Rikyu, expresses the spirit of Wabi-cha.

Rikyu is said to have created nijiriguchi inspired by seeing how a fisherman entered a boathouse on the riverfront at the Yodo-gawa River in Kawachi Hirakata. However, doorways that can be considered prototypes of nijiriguchi appear on old drawings of the time of Joo TAKENO, and many similar designs such as a tiny door built in a large door in merchant houses existed previously, so it was not Rikyu's invention.

Rikyu also built a golden tea room to Hideyoshi's orders. It could be disassembled and moved to different places. Although this golden tea room has been criticized as an example of Hideyoshi's vulgar taste, it was a small room of three mats following the rule of the soan-type and had some sophisticated elements. One view is that this golden tea room was one of the aspects of Rikyu's form of tea philosophy.

Developments after Rikyu

Shigenari FURUTA and Enshu KOBORI also created Chashitsu of their own type. Being a small space, Chashitsu can have a variety of designs, and a number of types of them were built. Rikyu's grandson Sotan explored Wabi to the extreme, and created the smallest Chashitsu called "Ichijo-Daime" with one guest mat and a short mat for the host, which Rikyu had once tried to make but given up. Compared with this, Oribe FURUTA, Enshu KOBORI, Urakusai ODA, and Sowa KANAMORI, who were feudal lords and tea masters, created samurai class shoin-style Chashitsu, or comfortable Chashitsu with a small room as large as three mats. Each generation of the SEN family has preferred a new type of Chashitsu, but not to the extent of Wabi that Sotan sought.

Since Chashitsu are small, they can relatively easily be disassembled and rebuilt at a different place. In fact, Joan (a tea house, and a National Treasure) was moved from Kennin-ji Temple in Kyoto City to the MITSUI family in Tokyo, and then their villa in Oiso-machi, and finally rebuilt at Meitetsu Urakuen in Inuyama City. Chashitsu are often built in imitation of a highly valued Chashitsu, a practice which is called 'utsushi,' or imitation.

Characteristics of Chashitsu

If a Chashitsu stood alone in an open space, it would look bleak. It is important to entertain guests in the space filled by the pathway that leads to Chashitsu.

Guests are not introduced directly to Chashitsu, but are first ushered to a yoritsuki (a waiting shelter of the outer garden) or a zashiki (a reception room with tatami mats). They step into the garden and walk through a small gate. Stepping stones are laid out along the garden path to the Chashitsu, and the guests notice that the host has cared to water the path. There is machiai (a waiting area in the inner garden) on the pathway, with seats where the guests wait for the host for a while. The host then comes out to welcome the guests into the Chashitsu. The guests do "chozu", or ritually purify themselves by pouring some water over their hands using a tsukubai (a tiny purifying basin) in front of the Chashitsu. The guests enter the Chashitsu through the nijiriguchi with heads down. As they go through the nijiriguchi, they first see the Tokonoma. A kakejiku (hanging scroll) and flowers representing the season are arranged on the tokonoma which is illuminated by light from a bokuseki-mado (a window on the side wall of the alcove used to provide light). The main guest usually sits in front of the tokonoma or on a kamiza (a mat placed at the highest ranked position). The host sits on a temaeza (a tea host's mat), before which a furo (a portable brazier) is placed in summer, and a hearth is built in winter. Close to the furo, there is a shitajimado to light the host's hands.
All the guests are seated when the host comes in at the katteguchi (a side door, or the host's entrance)
The ceiling is low and minimum light comes in from the windows, which helps the host and guests focus on the tea ceremony. Following kaiseki (a light meal), the guests retire to the garden for a short break before returning to the Chashitsu to drink koicha (a strong green tea) and then usucha (a weak green tea), with each guest taking a drink from the bowl before it is passed on to the next guest; the guests then leave, quietly acknowledging each other one last time.

Because guests have to lower their heads to go through the nijiriguchi, a kijinguchi (an ordinary walk-in paper sliding door) is often built in addition to the nijiriguchi to welcome high ranking people. In addition to a katteguchi, a kyujiguchi is sometimes built to bring in meals.

Also refer to an article about roji.

Significance from the viewpoint of architectural history

They represent a unique field of study within Japanese architecture, because Chashitsu provide a rich spiritual space in minimum physical space.
It had an influence on residential architecture, and led to so called sukiya-zukuri style (a residence style influenced by teahouse architecture)

Notable Chashitsu

Taian, Joan and Mittan, all of which are National Treasures, are outstanding examples among the following Chashitsu:

Joan (Meitetsu Urakuen, Inuyama City): former Chashitsu of Shodenin of Kennin-ji Temple loved by Urakusai ODA (National Treasure)

Mittan (Ryukoin of Daitoku-ji Temple, Kyoto City) : said to have been loved by Enshu KOBORI (National Treasure)

Kohoan architecture (Kohoan of Daitoku-ji Temple, Kyoto City): made by Enshu KOBORI (Important Cultural Property)

Kaninseki and Masudokoseki (Jukoin of Daitoku-ji Temple, Kyoto City): Important Cultural Property

Konnichian and Yuin (Ura Senke, Kyoto City): Important Cultural Properties

Fushinan and Zangetsutei (Omote Senke, Kyoto City): Important Cultural Properties

Kankyuan (Mushanokoji Senke, Kyoto City)

Ennan (the Yabunouchi family, Kyoto City): Important Cultural Property

Shonantei (Saiho-ji Temple, Kyoto City): Important Cultural Property

Ryokakutei and Hitotei (Ninna-ji Temple, Kyoto City): Important Cultural Properties

Kasatei and Shiguretei (Kodai-ji Temple, Kyoto City): Important Cultural Properties

Hassoseki (Konchiin, Kyoto City): Important Cultural Property

Shokado (Yawata City): soan-type Chashitsu of Shojo SHOKADO (National Historic Site)

Taian (Myoki-an Temple, Oyamazaki-cho): said to be built by Rikyu (National Treasure)

Obaian (Daisen-koen Park, Sakai City): related to Sokyu IMAI (Registered Tangible Cultural Property)

Shinan (Daisen-koen Park, Sakai City): built by Rodo OGI (Registered Tangible Cultural Property)

Golden Chashitsu: replicas can be found in the Donjon of Osaka-jo Castle and at MOA Museum of Art