The Tea Ceremony and Women's Empowerment in Modern Japan

The Tea Ceremony and Women's Empowerment in Modern Japan

The Tea Ceremony and Women's Empowerment in Modern Japan

The Tea Ceremony and Women's Empowerment in Modern Japan

Synopsis

This title discusses the meaning of the Japanese tea ceremony for women practitioners in Japan from World War II to the 21st century. It examines such areas as: the relationship between the tea ceremony and the body; myths surrounding the tea ceremony; and body discipline.

Excerpt

The Japanese tea ceremony, or chadō/sadō, is an act of making and drinking tea in a specific, formalized manner. Established in the mid-sixteenth century, it today represents one of several 'traditional' Japanese arts/cultural activities, among them flower arrangement (ikebana).

This book focuses on the people who practice the tea ceremony. Rather than searching for some timeless, spiritual, religious or philosophical meanings of the tea ceremony as determined by tea ceremony teachers or by past and present scholars, I researched the meaning of the tea ceremony for lay practitioners today through participating in and observing their activities, as well as through conversing with them. (I will critically review preceding discussions on the tea ceremony's metaphysical connotations in Chapter 2.)

A more traditional anthropological approach might focus on the structure of the tea ceremony itself; I myself have twice conducted structuralist research on this topic (Kato 1993, 1994). This book, however, goes beyond structure. It explains people's practice of the cultural activity within specific social and historical forces in which the practitioners live. Today, approximately 90 percent of tea ceremony practitioners in Japan are women, of whom at least half are in their late forties or older, and most of whom are supposed to be married. Because they have lived most or all of their lives after World War II, I will first categorize them as 'women tea ceremony practitioners in Japan in the postwar period', then specify the social and historical conditions in which they live.

Three points must be clarified here. First, by saying 'women tea ceremony practitioners in Japan in the postwar period', I do not mean that I observed or interviewed all the Japanese women tea ceremony practitioners in the postwar period. Such research is technically impossible. As will be shown shortly, my participants are urban and suburban, middle-class women practitioners in the Tokyo area, who are between their thirties and eighties as of 1998 and 1999. It is true that women tea ceremony practitioners of other economic backgrounds, in other geographic areas including less urbanized places, and of other ages would have shown different aspects of the reality. Yet, considering postwar phenomena such as the

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