It should be in a place so that the guest can easily get from the entrance to it, but also so that it have a exit out to the Roji.
During a Chaji the guest would meet each other in the machiai. They would be served hot water by the Hanto. A machiai usually have a Tokonoma, and there is usually something on display in it. This should be something to supplement the main scroll and the theme of the Chaji. The tatami floor will usually be covered up with mosen, or another carpet to make sitting more comfortable. Also there would be a Tabako bon placed to indicate the seat of the first guest.
The machiai might also be used as a changing room if there is no separate space for that. All the guests would leave unnecessary items and men would put on their Hakama/Jitoku.
After the Chaji the guests would meet again in the machiai, and thank each other for the time they have spent together. The host might have left a small return gift for the guests. (A return gift for the gift the Tsume brought on behalf of the guests).
The first impression is, no matter what follows it, one of the most important and we all do our best to see that it is a good one. In Tea, after passing over the well-swept and sprinkled street front and entering the Teishu’s gate, one makes one’s way into the main house. The first room (sometimes called the genkan or hakama-tsuke) one enters is usually set aside for changing out of one’s travel clothes, coat, etc., and changing into one’s clean tabi or white socks. Anything unnecessary to the tea gathering, such as watches, purses, whole pocketsful of things are wrapped, with outside wear, in a cloth square called a furoshiki, and left in a shallow basket (midarebako) or set of drawers in the room. Once prepared with one’s tea implements, one proceeds to the formal waiting room called the machiai.
The machiai is the room prepared for the Guests which first reveals the unique feeling the Teishu has done so much to create. It is also the Guest’s first chance to settle into a calm mood and prepare him or herself for the Teishu’s efforts and for enjoying the other Guests’ company as well. It can be thought of as the prelude to a great opera. If nowhere else is prepared, this machiai also serves as “locker room,” so be prepared for this as well.
First and foremost in consideration is the scroll in the Tokonoma. Most commonly used scrolls for the machiai are paintings of seasonal themes. Such general subjects as the bird and flower of the month or the matsuri or festival of the month are suitable for a tea gathering without a “tight” focus. In the case that more directly related material is available, such as letters by other Chajin which have something to do with the day’s gathering, paintings, poems or such, which are specifically related to something which appears later in the chaji, of course are most appropriate, as they directly influence the Guest’s appreciation and expectations.
The scroll in the machiai also has to be coordinated with the scroll in the main room. This coordination requires consideration for, first of all content then form. Coordination of content includes both textual content and format. Needless to say, the machiai scroll must conform to the main scroll rather than vice versa, so one begins with the selection of the main scroll and finds something to properly “introduce” it. It is good to remember which is foremost. The scroll in the main room should usually be more serious, formal, and older or of a higher “status.”
As to content, single poems or poem sequences in a horizontal format called kaishi are usable for both the machiai and main Tokonoma, depending upon other utensils and the Teishu’s intent. Simple ink paintings, with Chinese poems called Kanshi, Japanese 31-syllable Waka or seventeen syllable Haiku poems make for multi-faceted scrolls which give both intellectual stimulation and visual pleasure to the waiting area, as well as a historical richness to the Tea experience. On the other hand, paintings with Zen phrases (gassan) are redundant and should be avoided in the machiai.
Another important type of machiai scroll are letters from Tea men, poets or monks, or their diaries mounted usually in horizontal format. Depending upon the age and importance of the author, these letters and diaries may be used in the machiai or the main Tokonoma. For example, just about the only calligraphy we have from Sen Rikyu’s hand consists of letters, authentifications of tea objects and diary entries. Mounted as scrolls these command the highest respect among wabi Tea people. Besides Rikyu’s writings, however the writings of cultivated men and women (except politicians), especially if they contain a poem or some sort of seasonal observation or spiritual content, are considered interesting for their spontaneity and freedom of calligraphy as well.
Occasionally, a tea utensil will have a letter connected with it, usually recounting its history or provenance. These make excellent machiai scrolls when the object in question is used in the tea gathering somewhere. There are a number of letters ordering utensils such as furo braziers, kettles, etc. which whet the imagination and deepen the Guest’s appreciation of the thoroughness of the Teishu’s preparations and sharing.
Some TYPES of paintings for Machiai Scrolls
Yamato-e-Tosa and later, Kano style paintings
Rimpa school based on the works of Ogata Korin, Tawaraya Sotatsu
Shijo-ha- based on the works of Matsumura Goshun
Maruyama-ha- based on the works of Maruyama Okyo
Ukiyo-e- paintings of the “floating world” not so usable
Tea master’s and Sukisha painting-
modern anywhere, that fits usual parameters
In the worst case scenario, either where there is nothing to hang or nowhere to hang it, there is no shame. If one has nothing to use, the Tokonoma is left bare, a sudoko, “naked, uncovered, simple toko” is perfectly acceptable. Even the sudoko is haikened at the beginning and end of the stay in the machiai. A kabe-doko is also a possibility in a room that might be used for machi awase. A creative person can even use tall byobu screens to hang scrolls from.
Typical scenes or thematic objects for the month can be found in the saijiki.