Dec 30, 2009

Invitation to a tea gathering

Like any formal invitation,  an invitation to a tea gathering will have a time, date and place.   But look closer at the invitation.  The host of the tea gathering has included a seasonal poem, reference, greeting or saying that tells you about the occasion for  the gathering.  It may even hint at the theme for the gathering.

In a cold, cold dawn
the golden fragment of a
waning moon -- how bright!

The wording of the invitation will be humble, something like --  "The end of the year approaches and the remaining days are getting shorter.  Let's not put off meeting again so please come to share a simple meal and a bowl of tea."

You will also notice that the invitation is hand written.  In Japan, these invitations were callgraphied in your best brush writing on beautiful paper and hand delivered.  Today in America, hand written invitations with appropriate illustrations sent through the mail is appropriate. No flyers, cutesy printed invitations or emails for tea gatherings.

Then the time, the date and the place.  An RSVP such as "Please let me know by Dec. 31 if you will attend"

Sometimes there will be a list of the other guests, especially the Shokyaku or first guest.

When you receive an invitation to a tea gathering, etiquette demands that you RSVP as soon as you can. Do not wait until the deadline or make the host call you and ask if you are attending or not.

If you are the shokyaku, the host will provide you with a list of the other guests who have confirmed attending.  It is the shokayku's responsibility to call each of the other guests and tell them the order of seating, what to bring to the gathering, the format of the gathering and answer any questions they may have. Also the shokyaku will either call or visit the host (zenrei) to bring a gift and ask the host if there is anything that they can do before the gathering.  A polite guest other than the shokayku should call or write a note to the host a couple of days before to express thank you for the invitation. (This is in ADDITION to the RSVP).

As a guest, you are expected to bring your fukusa basami with fan, fukusa, kaishi, sweets pick, plastic bag and handkerchief.  As shokyaku, I always bring an extra set of fukusa, fan, papers, plastic bags and handkerchief just in case anyone forgets to bring them.

As a guest, please arrive 10-15 minutes before the start of the gathering to take care of hanging up your coat, putting on your tabi (or removing tabi covers), and stowing your belongings.  Sometimes the host will make a changing room available for those wearing or putting on kimono.  Please arrive in time to be dressed and ready 10-15 minutes ahead of time, and try not to disturb your host with requests such as helping you put on your kimono or tie your obi.

Next:  Anatomy of a tea gathering


  1. Thanks for posting this. Very handy.

  2. 黑色 hello and welcome to the SweetPersimmon blog. Nice to meet you, too.

    Nick, I hope this will help you for your next chakai.