This page was originally written as a handout for the Norwegian studygroup.
Historically what we today call a chaji was called chakai. But let’s look at what the terms are used for to day.
A chakai is usually a rather public event. Commonly held at temple in connections to kenchashiki (offering of tea to the Gods). But there are many other events for which a chakai may be held, some example could be: hatsugama (first tea of the year), robiraki (opening of the hearth), memorial service and so forth.
One of the main distinguishing feature of a chakai is that the host does not necessarily know all the guests personally. One seki, seating may include as much as 50 guests. So it goes without saying that they all can not be made tea individually by a single host. So what is done instead is that usually the first two or three guest is served from the temae za by the host. The rest will be served tatedashi, meaning that assistants of the host carry out already whisked tea and present it to the various other guests.
This way a lot of guests can be served tea in the time it takes the host to make two or three bowls of tea.
For chakai one would normally buy a ticket, for the event. This might or might not cover the expenses of the host. Some guests might bring a mizuya mimai for the host when they arrive at the chakai. This is usually sweets, money or something else that can easily be divided or consumed by the host and the assistants.
A chaji, often referred to as a formal tea gathering is usually with one to seven guests. But more is possible. Traditionally five was considered the perfect number. The order of a chaji depends on among other thing the season. The order for a noon chaji in the summer season would be:
- The guests are served hot water (by the hanto) in the waiting room.
- From there they proceed through the garden, where the host will greet them.
- In the tea room they are first served food and sake.
- Then the charcoal is prepared. (shozumi)
- The host serves them a sweet each.
- After they have eaten the sweet the guest proceeds back to the garden, and have a short walk in the garden. (nakadachi)
- The host calls the guest back with a bell like device.
- The host makes thick tea for the guests, they all share tea from one bowl. (koicha)
- The host then rearranges the charcoal. (gozumi)
- The host make each of the guests at least one bowl of usucha. (usucha)
It is not uncommon for a chaji to take about four to five hours. There is no set time limit for a Chaji.
The day before the chaji the first guest would normally come to the house of the host, to se that everything is in order and to make sure that he knows the way. At this time the first guest would not enter but only greet the host in the entrance. In Japan it is very common to bring a O-rei on behalf of all the guests at this time. An O-rei is money in an envelope. These money is suppose to help covering the expenses for the chaji. It can be very confusing finding out how much is appropriate, out side Japan you can probably count on being told how much you need to pay if anything. Arriving at the chaji the last guest would normally bring a small gift for the host. This follows many of the same rules as mizuya mimai mentioned under chakai, but money is not normally given at this occation.