The four distinct seasons in our country create unique scenery, and the many traditions that have been formed from the events held year after year based on the seasons, are called 'saiji'. The thing which most clearly shows the traditional culture of chanoyu is when we see chanoyu moving in step with 'saiji' and when 'chaji' are held corresponding with saiji.
'Chaji' are held throughout the year, spanning the four seasons.
Generally chanoyu's year commences during at the beginning of November. This is the beginning of winter by the modern calendar (about the 7th or 8th of November). The ro (hearth) is opened at this time in the tea room. The seal on the jar of tea leaves that were picked in spring is broken and the new leaves are used. This is known as the time of 'kuchikiri' ('cutting the mouth'). Because the new tea is used from this time, it is known as the New Year of tea. At this time the bamboo in the fences and gutters is renewed, the tatami mats are changed and the shoji (sliding screen doors) are newly papered. The tea event in this season of both kuchikiri and kairo (opening of the hearth) begin at noon and continue for about 4 hours with kaiseki cuisine, thick tea and thin tea. This 'ro shogo no chaji' is the most formal tea event and is also the basic model for the tea event.
Beginning with 'kuchikiri' as the first tea event in the New Year of tea, I will explain briefly what kind of tea events are given in response to the changes of the seasons.
After 'kuchikiri' there is the yobanashi tea event that begins in the evening so that the long winter night may be enjoyed. Then there is the 'akatsuki no cha' (dawn tea event) to enjoy the dawn breaking on a severe winter night, and at the beginning of May there is the 'shoburo' tea event at the time of the change from hearth to brazier (furo). The cool of the early morning during the severe heat of summer is enjoyed at the 'asacha' (morning tea event). As autumn deepens, in October, there is only a little tea left in the jar that has been used since the previous year and at the 'nagori no cha' there is the sadness of parting (nagori) from this tea. It is also a time to experience the sense of nature's seasonal decline.