Japanese Tea Ceremony & Ichi-Go Ichi-E

Ichi-Go Ichi-E: One Time, One Meeting

Deconstructing Chadō, the Japanese Tea Ceremony, to reveal the ephemerality of beauty.

Yasuko Takahashi
Words (Japanese)
Yasuko Takahashi
Words (English)
Maddy Macdonald
Nathalie Attallah & Carly Williams
Cherry Blossom

Ichi-go Ichi-e is the esteemed Japanese idiom that expresses the fleeting beauty of passing time. With respect and acknowledgment, it implies that each moment, each meeting, is different, and can never be repeated again. A glimpse of this seasonality can be gleaned through the quiet spectacle of blooming and falling cherry blossoms each spring. Its significance extends to the ritual of Chadō, the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

As the trees grew heavy with vibrant pink blossoms, wafting their sweet scent in anticipation of the seasonal festivities, we had the distinct honor of sitting down with Ms. Yasuko Takahashi, esteemed Chadō artist from the Urasenke Foundation. Together, we embarked on a philosophical journey to deconstruct the elements of Chadō, the Japanese Tea Ceremony, with ephemerality as a central theme of focus. We shared a meditation on the elements that bring harmony to the tea ceremony, led by the masters of each fine craft. The result is an audio-sensory experience evoking the meditative tranquility of the tea room.

The following is a guide to the Japanese Way of Tea written by Ms. Yasuko Takahashi and translated to English from its original form.


Chadō: The Japanese Way of Tea


Chado is known to be a composition of arts.


This is because Chado is a cultural component of Shodo (calligraphy), Kadou (flower arrangement), Koudou (incense burning), Kimono, Japanese cooking, gardening, architecture, fine arts, and crafts.


In this [exploration], we hope that you will see how Chado, Chabana, Shodo, and Wagashi are all harmoniously creating one space, [the tea room].

The Elements

Final Product of Modern Japanese Tea Ceremony



In the tea room, there is a special area called the Tokonoma. In the Tokonoma, there is a hanging picture called Kakemono, which is the most important tool for the tea ceremony.


Kakemono has Zen words, which express the theme of the tea ceremonies or the season.

A Flower Will Open Up with Five Petals When It Blooms


Today’s Zen word is “Ikka goyouwo hiraku” from Darumataishi. It literally means “a flower will open up five petals when it blooms”.

It implies that when you get rid of your bad passions, it will bring you towards enlightenment.


A flower with five petals will bear fruit. In other words, if people do not [possess the] five wisdoms, we will not be able to bring our wisdom to the next generation.


The five wisdom we talk about here are: (1) Having a peaceful mind [and heart] to maintain harmony, (2) treating people equally, (3) seeing the world without having any prejudice, (4) dedicating yourself to others, and finally, (5) being honest and true to yourself.

Japanese Calligraphy for Chado Ceremony




We use seasonal flowers for Chabana. The Chabana is not supposed to be arranged too beautifully as it is more ideal to look like the flowers in the wild.


Also, instead of choosing the fully bloomed flowers, it is better to choose the one that is still in bud, preferably wild grass.


Unlike Kadou, Chabana does not have a specific form.


However, since there is no form in Chabana, it allows you to arrange flowers as they naturally are, and allows you to express the heart of hospitality or welcoming.

Chabana is the only viable being in the tea ceremony.


When I cut into the flowers with scissors, I always appreciate and acknowledge the life the flower has lived.


We can learn the circle of life and death from trees and flowers as they bloom and die very fast.


I believe that Chabana gives us the opportunity to remind us of the preciousness of our life as well as those of all living things.

Chabana for Tea Cermemony



Wagashi, which are made of familiar ingredients such as nuts, fruits, grains, and beans, are called the food of arts.


It is believed that the origin of Wagashi started in the Kamakura era, 12th century, when the Buddhist monk brought dumplings from China.


As the Edo era began, people started distinguishing Wagashi by its different names and expanded its varieties.


Since then, at tea ceremonies, Omogashi, Japanese cakes were served before Koicha (dark tea) and Wasanbon, dry sweets, were eaten before Usucha (light tea).


Wagashi is an essential part of tea ceremonies as it portrays classical literature and the seasons of Japan. It also embodies the theme of the tea ceremony.


Wagashi can be enjoyed with our five senses; sight, taste, texture, smell, and sound.

chef makes Wagashi for Chado Ceremony


Ichi-Go Ichi-E


As you learn more about Japanese culture, you will realize that it often portrays life and death, immortality and mortality, nature and culture. Thus, we appreciate our life and work hard on improving ourselves as we realize that nothing stays the same.


The phrase “Ichi-go Ichi-e” came from Chado.


The phrase “Ichigo Ichie” implies that we appreciate every moment we live and we appreciate all the people we meet in our life.


It implies that each Chakai you have is different and it was or it will never be the same. In other words, you will never experience the same Chakai ever in your life.


Thus, we do our best to express our respect and acknowledgment in Chakai.


Not only in Chado but also in our daily lives, we will never be able to experience this moment again.


Continue Learning

Delve further into the celebration of cherry blossoms
Continue your exploration of the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
Art, beauty, culture: Discover a wealth of rituals from around the world.