The tokonoma is the alcove where the master prepares the tea. This place is decorated with a hanging scroll, the kakemono, that may present a poem, Zen epigram, a sentence calligraphed by a great tea master, a simple drawing, etc., depending on the occasion. This scroll provides a kind of title or theme according to which the ceremony will unfold. All the utensils are chosen with the greatest care, to harmonize with the theme. The host also places a vase of freshly picked seasonal flowers in the alcove.
The utensils that will be needed for the ceremony are brought into the alcove and may be placed on a table or wooden base finished in black lacquer and finely ornamented. The tea container or incense holder are placed on the upper part as decoration. Below, we find a portable hibachi (if there is no fireplace built directly into the floor of the tea house) on wich the cast iron kettle is placed. To the side there are a porcelain water container, a waste water container (often made of simple rough wood), a wooden ladle and its bamboo holder, a bamboo spoon, and a bamboo whisk. An incense burner may be added.
The tea boxes are often very old, and are made of porcelain or lacquer. They may take a variety of forms from flattened balls to elongated cylinders, and including the gourde shape called "jujube" after the fruit of this tree. These forms match the type of tea ceremony, formal or informal. When it is not in use, the tea box is stored in a silk case, then placed in a special box, whish is itself placed in a bag and put in another box. The cover of the porcelain tea boxes is made of ivory lined with gold leaf.
Once made of ivory, the tea spoons are now made of bamboo by the tea masters themselves and kept in bamboo boxes marked with thein names.
There are two types of whisk, one for light tea and the other for heavy tea. Both are made from split bamboo, with one being larger and stronger than the other.
The hibachi is used to heat the water in the kettle. It may be portable, or built into the floor on the tea house, The fuel used is charcoal.
©1996: Centre d'histoire de Montréal
Picture Source: Tea Ceremony, Tokyo 1991