Nov 5, 2008

Opening of the Ro

Congratulations to President-elect Obama on his run for the Whitehouse.

In November, the winter time hearth is opened. The ro is a sunken hearth that is larger than the summer time brazier. A hole cut in the floor houses the hearth and the heat from the charcoal fire warms the tatami from underneath and makes the room cozy.

The event that marks this opening of the ro is called robiraki. It is one of the major tea events of the year. Rikyu said that when the yuzu (citron) turns yellow is the time to open the ro. Usually that is around the first of November. To prepare for this event, the tea room is cleaned top to bottom. Shoji are repapered, and the tatami mats are rearranged so that they can accommodate the cut out for the sunken hearth.

At this time also, the chatsubo (tea storage container) is opened where the new tea leaves have been stored to age since they were harvested in the spring. The chatsubo is contained in a net bag or elaborate knots are tied to the lugs. There is a ceremony to cut open the sealed chatsubo and take out the leaves called Kuchikiri.

The usual sweet that is served is zenzai, or sweet bean soup with a pillow of mochi. Sometimes grilled mochi is mixed in with a chestnut. The highlight of the event is the laying of the charcoal fire and partaking of koicha – thick tea shared from the same bowl by the guests.

This year I was fortunate enough to attend Robiraki in both Portland and Seattle. The season is turning round one more time and it is comforting to participate as we move into the colder, darker time of the year.


  1. I have been indoors for several days working nonstop at the office. When I received this post on my BlackBerry, I put it down, and walked outside to experience the changes first hand.

    Thank you for this blog. Superb!

  2. Hello Pat and thank you for your comment. When these events come around to mark the change of season, it makes us slow down and savor the experience. We've had a superb autumn in the Pacific NW and I hope you share some of the feelings of Chado that I do.

    Take care,