The Relationship between Japanese Women and its Tea Ceremony
With the development of the society, women’s social status is increasing gradually, for example women could have rights to get higher education, or work as lawyers or doctors which these job positions are thought as unbelievable or cannot be implemented decades ago. Even though women’s social status is increasing gradually, some traditional activities are still remained in modern times such as the tea ceremony in Japan. In my paper, I will talk about the relationship between Japanese women and the tea ceremony and how the tea ceremony influences Japanese women.
Before I start to talk about the relationship between Japanese women and the tea ceremony, I will briefly talk about the history of the tea ceremony.
Many Japanese cultures can be traced back to the Chinese cultures including the tea ceremony in ancient times. The Japanese tea ceremony is an integral part of Japanese history. Tea came to Japan through a Zen monk who studied in China and brought tea seeds back to his native country. Originated and grown in China, tea was initially used for medicinal purpose and eventually became a beverage. As I mentioned earlier that tea came to Japan through a Zen monk or Buddhist, therefore the tea ceremony developed under the influence of this Zen monk or Buddhist. The aim of the tea ceremony is to purify the soul by becoming one with nature. In Japan, the true spirit of the tea ceremony has been described as words for example, calm, peaceful, graceful and simple. As the author, Chiba mentioned in his book “the tea ceremony has been exported in various forms to various venues, so that people around the world no other particular interest in Japan have begun to understand its special value” (2011: vi). It is true that the Japanese tea ceremony has various forms according to different types of tea, such as green tea or flower tea and seasons. The Japanese tea ceremony could occur in many different places such as at host’s family or in special places.
Now, I will talk about the relationship between Japanese women and the tea ceremony. Most of the time, when we watch television, read news or other media, we could always hear that many women do the tea ceremony at different places. You may wonder why this situation is. In order to know this situation, we have to be familiar with the relationship between men and women in Japan. There was a time that Japanese men dominate the society. According to Ikeno, he said that “among the aristocracy, men generally had great power over women” (2002:61). When the time went by, “at the end of the Heian period, women’s right of succession had weakened considerably” said the Ikeno (2002:61), In history, Chiba mentioned that “Urasenke chado was established in the sixteenth century and was only for men” (2011:1), because of this, this situation seems to accelerate women’s dependence on men economically. However, things seems changed, “among the samurai, women played an important role in the ie system, tying families together by marriage for political power” (2002:62). Also, only after the Sino-Japanese war (1894-15), “did women begin to participate” (2011:1). Nowadays, the majority of Urasenke chado practitioners are women in Japan. The relationship between men and women began to change completely “in the Edo period because of Confucianism”, in addition, “Because of the paternal aspects of Confucianism, the idea of ‘men outside and women inside’ became widespread”. (2002:62), the way of lifestyle or this attitude toward life is still prevalent or more popular in Japanese society in modern times.
Japanese women’s responsibility is to take care of the family and their children. One example of taking caring of children is that Japanese women have to perform many or even endless tasks to help their children’s study. One of the tasks is that after children go to school, all these mothers also need to go to the cram school to attend classes that their children are weak in. If children succeed, a mother is complimented; otherwise, a mother is blamed. Even this is Japanese tradition and custom, it seems that Japanese women have to devote their time to children’s education. From this case, I could know that Japanese women make contributions to their children especially after they get married.
Another example is lunch-box making in Japan by Japanese women. As we know that Japanese food is famous for its one of the food style which is lunch boxes. Making lunch boxes is as important as making chado in Japanese society. Japanese women have to learn how to make lunch boxes for their husbands and their children, according to Allison, “Japanese food, to the degree that how food looks is at least as important as how it tastes and how good and sustaining it is for one’s body” (1991:197). It is true that Japanese women have to spend a lot of their time to make lunch boxes not only make the food nutrition itself, but also how it looks from the appearance. In this way, after Japanese women finish making lunch boxes, they construct and reconstruct, arrange and rearrange the food in the lunch boxes. In Japanese society, the obento making is not as simple as the way it is, but instead, the theory of obento is a representation of what mothers or women are and what children should become.
Throughout these two examples, we can see that women are treated as good wives and wise mothers. According to Ikeno, “Although women were educated in Meiji times, their training was largely directed toward the household in that they were expected to support their husbands and be responsible for the upbringing and education of their children” (2002:62). This is true that why most Japanese women, especially after they married, have to stay home to do housework and to take care of their husbands and children. They devote much of their time on household. According to Ikeno, “After marriage, Japanese wives are often said to have difficulty in socializing freely. They seem willing to play their own roles in maintaining the household as good wives and mothers” (2002:67). Compared with wives, after marriage, husbands must maintain harmonious social connections with different people in groups in order to support their families financially. Because of this, many Japanese wives nowadays begin to take an active in their interest in networking or volunteering activities, which provide them more socialize then before. Activities which for Japanese wives socialize with each other such as tea ceremony or chado in Japanese.
First, I will talk about the socializing through the Japanese tea ceremony. In Japan, according to Chiba, “Urasenke chado was one of the club activities in Japanese schools. Many of the students practicing chado were girls, and many of their fellow pupils perceived them as ‘quiet’, ‘good’ students” (2011:5). As I mentioned above, chado class is not only a place for practicing chado, but also a place for women to socialize with each other. When Japanese wives get together to socialize in chado class, they would like to exchange their husbands’ information about positions or opportunities; and as a result, this way of socialization or networking also helps their husbands’ business or politics in some way.
Second, I will talk about the gender issues relate to Japanese tea ceremony. As it is known that in Japan, it is a man dominated society. Men have every right to do anything. So as tea ceremony practicing. According to Chiba, “Historically Urasenke chado was only for men, especially for nobles, merchants and the samurai class” (2011:92). From this quote, we can see that in Japan, the hierarchy is very strict; therefore, the chado is only for the people who are in the higher social class. However, things has changed after the Meiji period. Chiba mentions that “it was only after the Meiji period (1868-1912) that Urasenke chado allowed women to practice” (2011:92). From this quote, we could know that chado had widespread for women to practice after the Meiji period. It also indicates that Japanese women had the rights not only to take chado classes itself, but also that women have a sense of gender empowerment through involvement in chado.
As we know that Japanese women are underestimated or undervalued by the society or by men in Japan. Some Japanese women are greatly disadvantaged because of their lack of education, “the labor market and the household” (2011:95). Japan is a male-dominated society. As a result, men, compared with women, have more opportunities in getting higher education. The higher the education that men get, the more opportunities they will have and more money they will gain in their career. On the contrary, the opportunities for women’s access to education have not been equal to men’s education or fewer than men’s education, and there are not so many career opportunities provided for women; therefore, more women have to tend to remain housewives to raise their own family after they get married.
The details from Chiba’s book that I read further, she mentions that “the current percentage of male participation in Urasenke chado is extremely low by comparison with the Edo period (1603-1867).” (2011:99). Once Chiba attended a student seminar, there were only four male students out of the 78 students. To Chiba’s surprise, once when she was at the regional Urasenke chado conference, there were only two percent of male practitioners there. The decreased population of men in chado indicates that women have already gain the empowerment by participating in chado.
As I mentioned earlier that Urasenke chado was only for men until the Meiji period, but majority of current chado practitioner are women. Many Japanese people think that the chado is only for women, not for mem. In other words, chado practicing is women’s job only. One example from Chiba is that she did not see any involvement that her grandfather and father in Urasenke chado. Chiba’s grandfather and father have the same thought that “chado practice was something for women, and in a different world from them” (2011:101). Most female side of the family does not encourage male side of the family to learn chado practice, and men in the family never tried to learn either.
Another reason that most Japanese women practice chado and do not require men to practice is related to the issue of religious aspect of chado practice. Chiba mentions that all the attendants, which most of them are female practitioners, in the chado class that she attended were expected to pray for Sen Rikyu. This person was recognized as the founding father of chado in the sixteenth century. When praying, as Chiba mentions “we were guided to Sen Rikyu’s altar” (2011:106), everyone should be and told to be quiet because praying for Sen Rikyu is seen as a sacred event. When every single chado practitioner prays for Sen Rikyu not just pray as simple as we thought about, but also pray from their hearts and recite the Urasenke Creed. The Urasenke Creed is talking about why each of the chado practitioner comes to practice chado; how each chado practitioner influences each other instead of looking down upon others; and how they make progress in Urasenke chado. As a result, the religious belief and aspect of chado is important and this is why Japanese males are not required to practice chado.
Finally, I will talk about the Japanese housewives’ empowerment through the chado. As Chiba expresses that “Etiquette and manners are believed to it is important for Japanese people to show their etiquette and politeness in every aspect of their life. It is inappropriate for Japanese people not show their etiquette and politeness especially in some certain events or circumstances, such as chado practice. Chiba continues saying that “chado practitioners believe that this bodily control eventually leads to mental control, mental control also relates to cultural capital” (2011:118). From this quote, we could see that how important the bodily control and mental control is. Although chado study is not a simple work or task by acquiring both bodily control and mental control, Japanese women could recognize that the duration they study chado requires them as much efforts as their husbands’ four-year degrees. This may be a sense of empowerment that housewives have. Chiba mentions that “housewives seemed to perceive that they obtained their spiritual discipline and strength through chado ritual and consequently felt empowered in both their public and private lives” (2011:118). It indicates that Chado plays a vital role in Japanese women’s lives because it could ask women to have spiritual sustenance and strength in their both private and public lives.
In conclusion, Japanese chado plays an important role among Japanese women or Japanese chado and Japanese women has close relationship with each other. They influence with each other in some way.
In this paper, I analyzed the issues such as gender, Japanese women’s empowerment, and social standings relates to Japanese chado. For the gender issue in Japanese chado that Japanese women are undervalued. Japanese women are undervalued or disadvantaged because of education. Compared with men, Japanese women do not have more opportunities to achieve higher level of education. As a result, more Japanese women tend to remain housewives especially after they get married. For the empowerment issue that Japanese women consider characteristics of chado as an art form which encourages them to gain gender empowerment. Because Japanese women are undervalued and they do not accept this undervalue position, Japanese chado provides the way or possibility for women to gain their empowerment. Also, many Japanese women, especially housewives, not only enjoy the spiritual enjoyment from chado, but also during the years of chado study, Japanese women could put as much efforts as their husbands’ four-year study. The last one is about the Japanese women’s social standing in society. By studying chado, housewives want to become equal with their male family members.
However, Japan is a male-dominated society, and women are underestimated in every aspects of life in the society, not only in Urasenke chado but also where ie system exists. Since Japanese women are undervalued and underestimated, according to Chiba, “the top level of chado hierarchy is occupied only by men and the bottom level is occupied mainly by women” (2011:127). In Japan, the hierarchy is very strict especially in formal places. In these places, men control everything even in the higher level or forms of chado ritual. According to Chiba, “male dominance of the iemoto system is present not only in the hierarchy but even in the higher forms of chado ritual, in which women may not participate” (2011:127). Japanese males have the rights to do every decision in every aspect of their lives, workplace. The higher the hierarchy, the fewer the women have. Women are not a group of people who could participate in the higher level or hierarchy in formal places, such as government or workplace.
It is interesting for me to choose the topic of the relationship between Japanese women and its tea ceremony. I think this is significant because we can see that Japan is a male dominated society, therefore, it is hard or even impossible for women to achieve the higher level of position in society. The responsibility of Japanese women, especially after they get married, is to taking good care of their husbands and their children. It is shameful for Japanese husbands that their wives are still working outside to make money for the family after their marriage, which indicates that husbands are enable to make sufficient money to support the whole family. Because of this, many Japanese women quit their jobs after they get married and do whatever they like such as chado to enrich their spare time in their lives.
By learning chado, both housewives and non-housewives could gain their empowerment, but their result of gaining their empowerment is different. For the housewives, their purpose of gaining their empowerment through chado is to become equal with their male family members. However, to the non-housewives, their purpose of gaining empowerment is to, according to Chiba, “transforming chado into economic or symbolic capital” (2011:127). It is true that these group Japanese women have not got married yet, they have to enable them to make money, such as to be chado teachers, to support their expenditure on the economy and to support themselves and their female family members.
By knowing the relationship between Japanese women and its chado, I could conclude that chado is a traditional ritual in Japan. And this traditional ritual not just simply show the ritual itself, but represents the male dominated society in Japanese society. Additionally, the traditional ritual of tea ceremony also represents the gender roles between men and women in Japanese society.
1991 Japanese Mothers and Obentös: The Lunch-Box and Ideological State Apparatus. Anthropological Quarterly, Gender and the State in Japan 64(4):195-208.
2011 Japanese Women, Class and the Tea Ceremony: The Voice of Tea Practitioners in Northern Japan.
Davies Roger J. and Osamu Ikeno
2002 The Japanese Mind: Understanding Contemporary Japanese Culture.
© 本文版权归作者 Marry