Chashitsu - Tea Houses Versus Tea Rooms

Tea Houses Versus Tea Rooms

In Japanese, free-standing structures specifically designed for exclusive tea ceremony use, as well as individual rooms intended for tea ceremony, are both referred to as chashitsu. The term may be used to indicate the tea room itself where the guests are received, or that room and its attached facilities, even extending to the roji garden path leading to it. In English, a distinction is often made between free-standing structures for tea, referred to as tea houses, and rooms used for tea ceremony incorporated within other structures.

Tea houses are usually small, simple wooden buildings. They are located in the gardens or grounds of private homes. Other common sites are the grounds of temples, museums, and parks. The smallest tea house will have two rooms: the main room where the host and guests gather and tea is served, and a mizuya, where the host prepares the sweets and equipment. The entire structure may have a total floor area of only three tatami mats.

Very large tea houses may have several tea rooms of different sizes; a large, well-equipped mizuya resembling a modern kitchen; a large waiting room for guests; a welcoming area where guests are greeted and can remove and store their shoes; separate toilets for men and women; a changing room; a storage room; and possibly several anterooms as well as a garden with a roji path, an outdoor waiting area for guests and one or more privies.

Tea rooms are purpose-built spaces for holding tea gatherings. They may be located within larger tea houses, or within private homes or other structures not intended for tea ceremony. A tea room may have a floor area as small as 1.75 tatami mats (one full tatami mat for the guests plus a tatami mat called a daime (台目), approximately 3/4 the length of a full tatami mat, for the portable brazier (furo) or sunken hearth (ro) to be situated and the host to sit and prepare the tea); or as large as 10 tatami mats or more; 4.5 mats is generally considered the ideal in modern tea rooms. A tea room will usually contain a tokonoma and a sunken hearth for preparing tea in the winter.

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