Roji Tea Garden—A Short Description

by Karl Bareis (adapted from The Wooden Post, vol 10, March 2018)

Roji Tea Garden drawing…A contemplative garden landscape which invites the guests to experience a tranquil and purposely self-absorbed but silent process. Guests arrive at the tea garden by first walking through a forest on a steep mountain trail, and after some minutes arriving at a quiet landing in the forest surrounded by tall bamboo and a soft green pelt of moss-covered earth, punctuated by water-worn stones and handcrafted bamboo fences.

The whole effect of the tea garden is designed to put the guest in a state of tranquility. During an actual ceremony, guests arrive at an appointed hour, and after sitting in an open pavilion at the entrance to the tea garden for enough time to “listen to the sounds of nature”, the tea master will appear outside the tea hut, and beckon the guests to cross over the moss and enter the room. Quietly the guests leave the machiai waiting pavilion—each one separated by enough of an interval to allow the previous person a chance to privately follow the perfectly spaced stepping stones and observe the moment in nature without feeling crowded or rushed.

Upon arriving at the tea room, shoes and all superfluous items are left outside on a large smooth stone, and one is seated in a small room with a perfect view of the master as he ritually prepares the tea. All the while the room is filled with the sounds of water simmering over a charcoal brazier–each natural coal glowing in the dim atmosphere of the tea room. As the fluid and perfectly choreographed motions of the master put the guests in a state of deep and sympathetic ease, the lack of conversation allows each person to follow scent, or sound, or motions which he or she brings into focus within a state of personal contemplation. The climatic sips of thick whisked tea broth are by no means the only experience of the “ceremony”. One invariably is left with a sense of self awareness and unspoken gratitude–a complex emotion bracketed by the many separate physical elements which all are created and structured to focus the mind on the moment. Clarity in mind is helped by the physical isolation and surroundings.

This experience and this ritualistic type of tea garden is uniquely landscaped and extremely rare. The combination of the natural setting amongst the trees and being purposefully far away from the sounds of traffic and man-made noise is almost impossible to duplicate.