A very nice article on the Japanese tea ceremony turned up today: Tea ceremony: Part of Japanese culture. It has a more in-depth history than most articles on it usually do, and includes the following narrative of a ceremony the reporter attended, as told by the Japanese host:

The guest carries a packet of folded papers on which sweets should be placed before eating. A special cake pick is used to cut and eat moist sweets but dry sweets are eaten with the fingers. Receiving a bowl of tea, place it between you and the guest and bow to excuse you for going first. Then put it in front of your knees and thank the host for the tea. Pick the bowl up, put it in the palm of the left hand and raise it slightly with a bow of the head in thanks. Turn the bowl so that the front, distinguished by a kiln mark or decoration, is away from the lips. Drink and wipe the place you drank from with your fingers. Turn the front of the bowl back to face you. Put the bowl down on the tatami in front of you and with your elbows above your knees pick up the bowl and admire it. When returning the bowl, ensure that the front is turned back to face the host. After symbolically purifying all the utensils, the host blends water with the tea using a bamboo whisk. There are two different consistencies of tea–koicha, which is smooth and thick, and usucha, thin tea, which is whisked to froth. After receiving the bowl, the guest places it in the left hand, steadying it with the right. The guest gives a silent bow of thanks and turns the “face” of the bowl away from his or her lips before drinking.

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