Zen Kyoto

Japanese Chasen

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The Chasen is one of the tools used in the Japanese tea ceremony. It is a bamboo-made tool used for whisking Matcha after hot water has been added.

The Chasen is made by splitting more than half the length of the tip of a piece of bamboo and then knitting it with strings. The bamboo is about 10 cm in length. The shape of the Chasen differs according to usage and styles of the tea ceremony. The Omotesenke style uses smoked bamboo for their Chasen, the Urasenke style uses Wanghee-cane, and the Mushakojisenke style uses black bamboo.

The shape of the tip of the Chasen also differs according to the style of tea ceremony. The brush tip of the Mushakojisenke Chasen is straight, while that of the Urasenke and Omotesenke curves inwards. The Mushakojisenke Chasen is said to resemble the most with the “Rikyu shape” preferred by Sen Rikyu, the father of Japanese tea ceremony.

Chasens can also be classified by their number of bristles. Heiho has 16 bristles, Araho has 36, Chu-araho has 48, Nodate has 54, Tsuneho has 64, Kazuho has 72, Hachijyu-pon-tazu has 80, Hyappon-tazu has 100, Hyakunijyu-pon has 120. Araho Chasens are used for preparing Matcha in the “thick tea” (Koicha) method, while Kazuho Chasens are used for preparing Matcha in the “thin tea” (Usucha) method.

There are also Chasens made for use for specific types of Chawan (tea bowl). Tenmoku-Chasen is used for Tenmoku Chawan, while Chouchasen is used for Tsutsu Chawan (cylindrical bowl).

The history of Chasen traces back to the Song Dynasty in China. In China, the use of Chasen only began in the Song Dynasty, before which only tea spoons were used. The use of Chasen is recorded in A Discourse on Tea from the Daguan Reign Period of Northern Song, Huizong (r. 1101-1125). It was written that “Methods of pouring boiling water onto tea are many. There is that of adding the water immediately after mixing the powder into a “paste,” stirring it with a heavy hand and light stirrer, so that no millet grains or crab eyes are formed. This is called “inactive pouring.” The “light stirrer” was in fact referring to the Chasen.