Sep 12, 2008

Choosing a tea school

In Japan, there are many schools that teach Chado. I belong to the Urasenke school and have studied it for 25 years. It is one of the 3 schools from the Sen family, descendants from Sen no Rikyu, the man who essentially codified Chado. It was Rikyu’s grandson Sen Sotan who divided the family property into 3 parts: the front gate (Omotesenke), the back gate (Urasenke), and the property on Mushanokoji street (Mushanokojisenke). The San Senke as they are known are also referred to by the tea room that exemplifies each style of tea: Urasenke sometimes also referred to as Konnichian, Omotesenke as Fushinan, and Mushanokojisenke as Kankyuan

Here are a few of the other major schools of Chado in Japan:

  • Yabunouchi Ryu – founded by Jochi Yabunouchi (1536-1627).
  • Enshu Ryu – founded by Kobori Enshu (1579-1647)
  • Sohen Ryu – founded by Yamada Sohen a disciple of Sen Sotan
  • Matsuo Ryu – founded by Suji Genya
  • Endosenke Ryu – founded Kawakami Fuhaku. He went Edo in the direction of the 7th generation Omotesenke master and founded this school
  • Sekishu Ryu – founded by Katagiri Sekishu (1605 ~ 1673) Sekishu School was appointed as tea ceremony style of Shogunate family by the third Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu (1604 ~ 1651) This is the daimyo style school which was most spread through the Edo times.
  • Dai Nippon Sado Gakai (the great Japanese Tea Academy)
I am sometimes asked what the differences are between schools, and which school of tea is the best one to study. I have studied Urasenke for 25 years, and have not studied any other schools of tea. However, when I lived in Japan, I attended as many tea gatherings as I could no matter what the school. Since I lived not far from Urasenke and Omotesenke, those were the tea gatherings that I attended the most frequently though I have attended a Yabunouchi and Enshu Ryu chakai.

I always tell people who ask that each school may have some stylistic differences, but the history, much of the philosophy and aesthetics are very much the same. The important thing, I think, is to find a teacher willing to teach you; one that you feel comfortable staying with for a long time. Urasenke and Omotesenke schools seem to have the most teachers in the U.S. Both of these schools have made outreach to people outside of Japan. But you can find teachers of other schools as well.

For those of you in California, the Hakone Gardens sponsors a Dai Chakai every year. This year there will be presentations of Omotesenke, Urasenke, Mushanokojisenke, Yabunouchi and Matsuoryu style of tea. It would be a good place to view some of the differences and similarities in the tea schools. There’s still time to reserve your place before October 10th:

Hakone Dai Cha Kai
Location: 21000 Big Basin Way, Saratoga, California
Schedule: Sunday,October 19, 2008
11:00-11.45 A.M. Registration
12:00-5:00 P.M. Chaseki

For Further information please contact: John Larissou at 415.731.0622 or e-mail for details and reservations.

Reservation Form (42KB PDF)


  1. A lot of good information about different schools here. May I use it on ?

  2. Hello Marius,
    Welcome back. Yes, please use the information on the chado wiki. How are tea things with you?


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  4. Thank you.

    I did a presentation that I'm very happy with:

    I'm extremely busy at the moment, but busy with good things so there is no complaints. However, there has not been as much time for Tea as I would have liked. I find your blog very inspiring, and wish I could have attended your Okeiko.

  5. Marius,
    I read about your presentation and I found it very inspiring, too. I love to hear about people sharing tea whether demonstrations or chakai or chaji. Perhaps the venue will be available again to show case chanoyu.

    Thank you for reading the blog and thank you for your efforts to spread Chado. I hope in some small way I can contribute to what you are doing.

    Take care,