Sep 16, 2008

Dogu, more tea stuff

Dogu is a term for tea making utensils. My husband laughs at me and calls them tea toys. In fact, all you need for chanoyu is chawan (tea bowl), chasen (tea whisk), chakin (wiping cloth), fukusa (purification cloth), chaki (tea container) and chashaku (tea scoop). With these six utensils, you can do chanoyu anywhere.

When I first began to study Chado, there were not many Japanese utensils available. Even if I could afford them, they just were not available to me. I began to look at readily available things that could be used for tea. I still have many of those improvised utensils: a ceramic bowl for kensui, a cookie jar for a cold water container, containers of various sizes and shapes for tea caddies.

It is easy now to get acquisitive with tea utensils. Over the internet you can see lots of dogu for sale and you can spend a lot of money on these things. Collecting can become an obsession. But I recommend students to make purchases with restraint. If you have the six basic utensils, do you need to have one more thing?

A lot of dogu from my collection of utensils have come to me unasked. Some were gifts from my sensei and sempai. Other things passed from someone who knew someone else. Other things have been improvised utensils. I also have some utensils on loan from other teachers.

When making utensil purchases, I usually wait for a while before I purchase something. Usually it is something to help facilitate teaching or to use as an example for students.

One of Rikyu’s 100 poems states that, “Tea should not be an exhibition of what the tea man owns. Instead the sincerity of his heart should be expressed.”


  1. thank you very much for these words.

    best wishes,
    vinicius monfernatti

  2. vinicius,

    Thank you for your comment. I hope you benefit from some of my experience. Do you study tea, are you looking for more utensils?

    Take care,

  3. Margie,

    yes, I´ve been stdudying tea for a year and a half in my town (Curitiba - Brazil, Urasenke style).

    Lately I´ve been searching and buying chadogu from eBay and some other websites, but, as you said, it´s really easy to get obsessed with it.

    Your words were enlightening for me, and that´s why I wanted to thank you!

    Please, keep doing this great job.


  4. vinicius,

    Yes, it is easy to become obsessed with utensils. Please make tea for your friends with what you already have. Remember Urasenke tradition is wabi tea and keep studying. Thank you for your comments and I hope to see you in future discussions.

    Take care,

  5. Truer and wiser words were never spoken, Margie sensei!

    I admit to being regularly tempted by the beautiful utensils that can be found online. In fact it can be quite overwhelming. A friend described to me her trip to Japan, where she saw so many exquisitely fashioned dogu that her mind became frozen. She finally had to remind herself only to purchase what she needed - and ended up buying very little.

    As you say, sometimes the most wonderful utensils are the ones we already have at hand, and the best practice is to re-establish contentment with the things we now own. (Especially during a recession!)

  6. chamekke,
    When I lived in Kyoto, I wanted to buy a black raku style bowl. In Japan they are priced from relatively inexpensive to very very expensive. I went to museums and looked and looked at black raku style teabowls. The ones that I liked were so very expensive and I could not afford them, but I continued to look. I went to the Raku museum and had the privilege of drinking from an authentic raku bowl.

    At the end of my year in Japan, I left without having purchased one. But, the next year, one of my sensei in Japan who knew I had been looking and had been advising me on where to go, he sent me the most beautiful black raku style bowl with exactly the shape, glaze and foot I had been looking for. Not only that, he had taken it to Daitokuji and a priest there had given it the name "issei" (one voice, call) and the priest had written it on the box and signed it. Some wonderful things can come your way if you just wait.

    Thank you for your comment and let's continue our conversation about chado.

    Take care,