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How a Tea Ceremony Inspired Me to Design

Posted by Natsu Yamamoto on

The Way of Tea

The Japanese Tea Ceremony is tradition and ritual that is rooted in antiquity.  In Japan, the Tea Ceremony is thought of in terms of, "the way of tea" which refers to the devotion of one’s time and energy to the study, and practice of the tea ceremony.  The ceremony is less about drinking tea and more about aesthetics and perfecting the service of the guest.  The heart of this ceremony the guest and each and every movement of the host is carefully considered in relation to the person being served. The Tea Ceremony is ritualized in every way with the decorum and even the placement of utensils being considered in relation to the guest.  The high degree of detail that is considered in this ceremony has elevated it to a form of spiritual art.

Cha-shitsu (tea room) at my grandmother’s house, Tokyo

The Cha-shitsu (tea room) at my grandmother’s house, Tokyo.

The Bags

As I was growing up and practicing in the tearoom, I was always curious about the sewing construction of this small teabag called Shifuku. During the ceremony, each-time it was presented to me, I wanted to turn it inside-out and study the detail. The bag was too valuable and delicate according to my Grandmother. She told me it was to be treated with care due to it being a vintage piece which could be damaged easily. Over time, my curiosity grew as did my understanding of the care that needed to be used when handling the bags. Much like the Tea Ceremony, the bag needs to be handled with care and appreciation as this is an intrinsic and valuable piece used by the host.

The Cha-ire is a tea caddy and it is an even more valuable piece than the Shifuku. The Shifuku is carefully made by a craftsman, as a cover bag for the Cha-ire. The Shifuku must be durable because it will protect the Cha-ire.  Similar to the use of a kimono for appearance, some Cha-ire have different wardrobes of Shifuku.

This Shifuku is called Shika-gamimon (name of textile), from my grandmother’s collection.

This Shifuku is called Shika-gamimon (name of textile), from my grandmother’s collection.

I adore the Shifuku for its unique construction, functionality, and its aesthetics. It has a small circular bottom, which helps the bag to stand upright of its own accord, and the fabric has a slight padding in it which makes it durable. This feature gives it a beautiful soft fluffy look that is almost like a futon (Japanese blanket). The bag has a delicate feminine feel. This bag has become the hallmark of my design.

I always wanted to make a (beautiful & functional) handbag like the Shifuku. When I started my collection the first thing I did was to deconstruct the Shifuku to examine the inside construction. I continue to learn more of its making as the Shifuku takes decades of craftsmanship. This is important to me because I utilize this unique detail for all the styles within my design collections.


Art is an expression of the self, and for me this happens to be related to designing, creating, painting, and the tea ceremony. For me, this art has formed as a quest to combine fashion and tradition. It is a sense of love in which I am able to remember my grandmother and share her memory and the tradition of the tea ceremony in a daily casual way.

 I am performing the ceremony at my grand mother’s house.

 I am performing the ceremony at my grand mother’s house.

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