Is there any rules or guidelines for naming a tea room or house?


Is there any rules or guidelines for naming a tea room or house?


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Best Answer

Pay a Grandmaster a lot of money to think of one for you?

Nah, seriously, I think guidelines for naming chashaku can apply to teahouses, chawan or any piece of gear for chanoyu. Here are my own guidelines below. I look forward to reading other people’s ideas on this.

Traditionally, names for tea houses evoke the sense of an interface between what can be known and what is never to be discovered. Names often come from excerpts of Confucian, Zen, Esoteric Buddhist and Daoist texts.

遠鐘 Enshō (distant temple bell)

和風堂 Wafūdō (great hall of the gentle breeze)

忘筌 Bōsen (discarded net) (This one is dense. It comes from a text stating that once you’ve caught the fish, you can leave the net – ‘fish’ being a metaphor for enlightenment)

I like the discussion between Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers about ‘the Heroes Journey’. I think it relates to finding a name for a chashitsu very well. The bit I’ve pasted is the end of the main discussion relating to naming a chashitsu. It gets very relevant to chashitsu when they start talking about Han Solo.

Ep. 1: Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth — ‘The Hero’s Adventure’

“JOSEPH CAMPBELL: That’s to say you have moved out of the hard land, the solid earth, and are in the field of the unconscious. And she had pulled herself into the transcendent realm and got caught in the negative powers of the abyss, and she’s being rescued now by the upper powers. What you have done has been to elevate yourself out of the local field and put yourself in the field of higher power, higher danger. And are you going to be able to handle it? If you are not eligible for this place into which you’ve put yourself, it’s going to be a demon marriage, it’s going to be a real mess. If you are eligible, it can be a glory that will give you a life that is yours, in your own way.

BILL MOYERS: So these stories of mythology are simply trying to express a truth that can’t be grasped any other way.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: It’s the edge, the interface between what can be known and what is never to be discovered, because it is a mystery transcendent of all human research. The source of life: what is it? No one knows.”

Based on this dialogue between Campbell and Moyers, my students in Sydney named their chashitsu

黒鯨庵 Kokugei-an (Black whale hermitage)

Makes me think of a good Weezer song, too.


The guidelines I have for naming chashaku are below. Number 5, poem mei, would be less applicable for a teahouse. The other four options are possible, I think.

1. Metaphorical mei

Metaphorically alluding to the individual characteristics and aesthetic appearance of the object.

2. Historical mei

Poeticising the history or origin of the object.

Example: ‘Teki-gakure’ (Waiting for the enemy) chashaku by Ueda Sōko

Made in the first year of the Genwa period, 1615.

During the Battle of Kashii in the early stages of the Summer Campaign of the Siege of Osaka, though all other supporting forces had withdrawn, Sōko refused to withdraw his own troops and held ground waiting for the enemy to approach. As he waited, he discovered fine bamboo in a bamboo grove and carved two chashaku with his small sword. This pair of chashaku were named ‘Teki-gakure’ (Waiting for the enemy).

3. Seasonal mei

Capturing the feeling of the season at the time the chashaku was crafted.

4. Playful mei 

Punning, using wit or joke to name the object in association with its character or history.

5. Poem mei

Writing or giving a full existing poem as a name for the object based on the impression the object gives (my favourite). Kobori Enshū is credited for being the first teaist to start naming chashaku with full poems based on his impression from the chashaku. These are called ‘utamei 歌銘’ (poem name).

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I agree wholeheartedly with what is posted above,.

My tea house hunkers in the lee of a century-old oak tree, in a place named “the oak stand”– where oak seedlings fall to the blades of the mower every time I start it!

Thank you, Adam, for your frank, comprehensive and uplifting answer.

Above all, thank you for hinting(!) at the sine qua non clause, without which any Sado quest, imho, is inconceivable.

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