The tea ceremony room in traditional Japan: a stylized organization of space and time?

Eric Decreux


The paper has the purpose to present the organization of the tea room in the Japanese traditional tea ceremony and its interactions with Japanese imaginary. It suggests mainly that this space is organized in such a way that it eventually appears to become a stylized living place, taking into account two requirements. The first one is clearly to provide a place where both host and guests can have an harmonious exchange around a bowl of tea. The second is to provide a place in harmony with an idealized cosmos expressing both the presence of an ecumene and of time, as it is perceived in the Japanese traditional spirit. The paper thus investigates the presence of diverse Japanese crafts: tatami, calligraphy and poetry, pottery, flowers, metalwork, Japanese pastry, sometimes clothes etc., but also the relationship with outer gardens, outside weather, and the rules of behavior between people. All of these elements are not only considered in relation to one another, but also in relation to the season, to the guests or to other elements of the situation. We emphasize the valorization of different places at some moments, the role of frontiers of some tatami borders or of the fan of each participant. The mutual respect between people playing different roles is also highlighted, as well as the respect towards the chosen objects. Finally, the coordination of the movements and places during the meeting creates a specific and often really appreciated atmosphere. These rules contribute to building a living socialized and idealized place in accordance with two of the well-known watchwords of the tea ceremony: wa kei sei jaku – harmony, respect, purity, tranquility and ichiko ichie one time, one meeting.


space; place; tea ceremony; japanese culture

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Im@go. A Journal of the Social Imaginary - Biannual - Edizioni Mimesis