Unobtrusive guidance helps tea ceremony guests understand centuries-old etiquette.

Though we call them “tea ceremonies” in English, in Japanese the structured sharing of freshly brewed matcha is usually called chakai, or a “tea meeting.” Calling it a meeting really makes more sense, because while the host is the one who prepares and serves the tea, there are various procedures and etiquette points that guests are expected to understand and follow as well.

However, even many Japanese people are unfamiliar with, or have forgotten, what they’re supposed to do in a chakai. In modern times, it’s not uncommon for someone to have no first-hand experience beyond a few days of culture lessons in junior high school. So to help make tea ceremonies more accessible, a team of designers came up with the idea for Cyber Chakai.

The project was a joint effort between several partners, including Fujitsu, TZEN Communications, Kyoto tea wholesaler Yamamasa Koyamaen, and Tokyo green tea cafe Atelier Matcha. The concept for Cyber Chakai is to combine the traditional aspects of tea ceremony with modern technology, utilizing projected images and camera sensors.

As guests enter the room, a camera confirms their arrival and their seating space is illuminated on the tatami reed-flooring, along with a welcome message. Once all the visitors are in their place, the host enters to serve the customary sweets that are part of the ceremony, and to prepare the tea.

Once a guest’s cup of tea is placed in front of them, the room’s camera sensors recognize and illuminate the vessel, and instructions for what to do next are also projected onto the floor. For example, after you pick up the cup, you’re supposed to hold it in your left hand and rotate it clockwise three times before taking a sip, in order to fully appreciate the ceramic design and color (as shown at the point queued in the video below). By offering this guidance in written form, the quiet, tranquil atmosphere of the tea ceremony can be preserved.

The Cyber Chakai concept also uses image projection to create virtual landscape windows and interior decorations, such as calligraphy scrolls, to help the host create the ideal mood for the occasion.

Many of these artistic flourishes are applications of Fujitsu’s virtual conference technology, and the Cyber Chakai shown in the video even includes a sort of party game in which the guests try to guess which specific variety of tea they’ve sampled, “writing” their guesses on the floor using a stylus which the cameras can track the motion of and convert into projected text, which can then be passed around the room and even onto the walls as though it were written on a physical piece of paper.

Two Cyber Chakai events were held at Fujitsu’s Okada Memorial Library facility last month, and the creative partners hope that the concept can be adopted in ways to spread understanding and appreciation of tea ceremonies among those whose inexperience might preclude them from ordinarily taking part in the custom, including visitors to Japan from overseas.

Source: PR Times
Top image: PR Times
Insert images: PR Times, YouTube/ATELIER MATCHAアトリエマッチャ
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