This is what many people think of when they heard “tea ceremony”, a tea artist whisking a bowl of tea with a tea whisk.
Actually, this step in serving a bowl of tea is very important because it decides the feel of tongue. The purpose of this whisking is not to whip, but to equalize the powder of tea in hot water, and the more equaled, the smoother the tea becomes.
Takayama Chasen was firstly made by the son of then load of Takayama domain answering the order from Murata Juko who created tea ceremony in the middle of Muromachi era (1336-1573).
Now Takayama is the only place where produce Casen. Most of them are made of bamboo, but plastics and metals are sometimes used for tea ceremonies held in outdoor.
There is a strict rule to create Takayama Chasen. Main material, bamboo, should be cut in the winter. Then the oil is removed by firing, and the pieces of bamboo are sun dried.
They should be exposed to the sun at least 10 days. Then they are tore from one edge and the tips are shaved and bent to inside.
Depending on the number of tips and length, thickness, kind of bamboos, and forms, there are about 120 types of Chasen. Which means there are such number of styles of tea, including weak green tea, strong green tea, offering tea, on-the-field tea, and tea box.
Since the purpose of chasen is whisking, it is considered as expendable supplies and usually one chasen is durable for only one tea ceremony.
However, they are not just discarded but celebrated as important tools for tea lovers. Just like holding memorial services, they are burned on certain red soil after they completed their roles.
Making tea for someone with one specific chasen surely is uniquely precious encounter.
Takayama Chasen was designated as Traditional Craft by METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) in 1975.