Jun 29, 2008

Mizuya, the preparation room

When people see a tea room, they do not think of the mizuya, the preparation room. It is the training ground for the tea room and here that the some of my most profound lessons were learned. There are many rules to learn about preparing for tea class and tea gatherings and it all starts in the mizuya.

Some mizuya I have worked in were small rooms that barely fit two or three people side by side. I once prepared 300 bowls of tea with two other people in a mizuya that was six feet by six feet. It also contained an electric burner, a sink for washing bowls, cold water rinse buckets and room for about 30 bowls. There was no table in this mizuya, everything was done on the floor sitting seiza.

Because the mizuya is hidden from the guests, we must be extra diligent about doing things, cleaning up after ourselves and working together with a minimum of fuss. Sensei says that the mizuya must be cleaner than the tea room.

So every spare minute you spend in the mizuya you should be cleaning. Whether you are washing bowls, filling the tea container, arranging flowers or preparing for the next temae, clean up before you work and after you work. Do not leave your cleaning for others. If you are not working you can zokin (wipe the floor with floor towels). If you are not working, get out of the mizuya. It is no place for idle talk, gossip or just standing around.

When cleaning up after your temae, you should wash, rinse and dry your bowl, rinse your chasen and clean out your kensui. Rinse and remove all the green tea from your chakin, and fold neatly and return to the flat chakin darai. Wipe your chashaku with tissue so that all tea residue is removed and refill the natusme with tea. Replenish the sweets tray and arrange them for the next person. Return all utensils to their proper place when you have finished.

Because the mizuya is often a confined space, working together in harmony is essential. Usually there is a cho or head of the mizuya. It is the cho’s responsibility to make sure everything is done correctly in the mizuya. Therefore, there is no arguing with the cho. If he asks you to do something, you do it. But don’t wait around for the cho to tell you what to do. If you see something that needs to be done, just do it – and with a minimum of fuss. If you have a problem in the mizuya, call a meeting with the cho – later, outside of the mizuya.

When handing things to other people in the mizuya, you should put it down in front of them and let them pick it up. It is safer than passing utensils from hand to hand. A good foundation in the mizuya, allows you to concentrate on doing the right things in the tea room. I find that it helps me mentally to be present in the tea room if I have done my mizuya work well.


  1. Wow, so much going on behind the scenes. Such hard work and dedication that goes into everything.

  2. Ah but Jane, I'll bet that when people look at a finished piece of embroidery work you do they don't think about all the preparation of your fabric, pattern, putting it on the frame, choice of colors, type of stitch, and protecting finished parts while you work on other parts, either. Not to mention the work that goes into framing the finished piece, or making the garment that comes after you've embroidered it either. I have learned so much from you.


  3. Oh yes, I forgot to add to this: no wrestling or fist fights in the mizuya.