As my classes are preparing to host a chakai this summer, I thought that I would talk a little about tea gatherings.
Chakai are rather informal tea gatherings. Sweets and usucha are usually served, and usually no meal is served at a chakai. I have been to chakai in Japan where there were hundreds of participants. Everyone was seated in a very large tatami room. In one corner, near the first guest the temaeza is set up and a few bowls of tea are made. Then the rest of the guests are served tatedashi, from the kitchen. There is an efficiency and order to this type of gathering. I have worked in the mizuya whisking tea. -- with 3 people, we whisked 300 bowls of tea for a chakai one time.
Chaji are a more formal type of gathering and there are 7 types of chaji. There are 3 timed chaji
- Shojo no chaji - this is the most formal and the standard type of chaji. It can be held in the ro or the furo season. The start time is 11 or 12 o'clock. The order for shogo no chaji is shozumi, full kaiseki, nakadachi, koicha, gozumi and usucha. This is the most difficult to pull off and challenging for the guests to sit through.
- Asa chaji - takes place in the morning at 5-6 am. Furo season only. It is short and quick and ends by 7 or 8 . It is a way to beat the heat in the summer time, so tsuzukiusucha (usucha following directly after koicha) no gozumi, an abbreviated kaiseki. No raw fish or yakimono (grilled dish).
- Yobanashi chaji - takes place in the evening about 4-5 pm and in the ro season only. Serve tsuzukiusucha, and abbreviated kaiseki. No gozumi, but tomezumi or tachizumi (charcoal at the end). No raw fish or yakimono. Plan to use lights (candles and lanterns) and heat sources such as teaburi (handwarmers) and hibachi.
- Hango chaji -- takes place after meal times. 10 am or 2 pm or 7 pm, can take place in furo or ro season. VERY abbreviated kaiseki to no kaiseki - the food can be tenshin (one plate meal) noodles or snack, or just nimono, and hassun. The order is lay sumi, food, serve sweet, break, and koicha. Usucha can be skipped. This is a good chaji for less dogu or time.
- Rinji chaji -- emergency or spontaneous, unexpected. Contains the basics of rice, soup charcoal sweets and tea. Can do tsuzukiusucha. Other than that, no real rules, no set times. Because it is so informal, it should have a very formal feeling.
- Atomi chaji-- viewing the remains. This takes place after another chaji. The host's very best friends basically invite themselves to view the utensils. The host will rehang the scroll and move the flowers to the floor. Order, food, koicha tsuzukiusucha. no nakadachi. Food is something different for than what was served for the first chaji guests, may even be just noodles or rice soup.(I always thought this was rather rude to invite yourself over and make the host do double duty when the first chaji was probably exhausting enough).
- Akatsuki chaji - Dawn chaji. This is the expert's tea. It starts at 4 am and always in the ro season. You need a ceiling window. The illumination turns to sunlight in the tea room as it moves from dark to light. There is a bit of drama as the windows open and light streams in just at the hassun is served. (timing is critical here). Oil lamps or candles naturally guttter out as the light comes in. Sumi first, food is variable, hassun must be served, sweets, koicha tsuzukiusucha.