Ujicha is cultivated on the bedrock of a long history and time-honored traditions. Even today, tea touches the lives of Kyotoites on a daily basis and is ingrained in our collective cultural consciousness. This section was designed to share a little bit of that culture and history with you.
On the first Sunday of October, the Ujicha Festival is held at Kenninji to pray for the continued prosperity of Ujicha and to commemorate the three great men who ushered in and developed the tea industry of Uji: Zen Master Eisai who brought the first tea seeds from China, High Priest Myoe who planted the seeds at Uji, and Rikyu Sen who pursued the art of tea ceremony to its utmost refinement.
In 2006, at the 55th Ujicha Festival, Shohokuen’s own Tsuyoshi Sugimoto performed the Tea-Jar Opening Ceremony.
1. Water being drawn from the Uji River to prepare tea offerings.
2. A tea jar stands before the Buddha effigy awaiting the jar-opening ceremony.
3. Sacred water drawn from the Uji bridge at the point called San-No-Ma is brought forth, and the ceremony can begin.
4. The chosen disciple delivers the tea jar.
5. The pot is purified with a feather duster.
6. The seal is severed using a Kodsuka (the knife attached to the sheath of a sword.)
7. The weak tea is emptied into a woven basket.
8. The strongest tea is used for brewing.
9. The tea is ground in a stone mortar.
10. The ground Maccha is placed in a tea case.
11. The case is placed inside a silk purse.
12. The disciple carries the tea offering to a minister who is standing by.
13. When the minister accepts the tea from the disciple, the tea-jar opening is complete.
14. The minister brews the tea. Kurakazu Soukaku sensei of the Urasenke school faithfully performed this ritual.
15. The brewed tea is handed to the chief abbot of Kenninji who places it in front of the Buddha effigy. This brings the ceremony to a close.
16. Verses written by the chief abbot of Kenninji.
17. The disciple’s teapot adorned with decorative string.