Takayama tea whisk is an Important Asset of tea culture


Takayama tea whisk, Essential  Bamboo Produces For Japanese Tea

Takayama Chasen (Takayama tea whisk) is produced in Takayama-cho, Ikoma City, Nara Prefecture. Takayama Chasen has remained unchanged since its birth, and all the processes are still done by hand. Almost all of the tea whisk in Japan is made from Takayama tea whisk. It is cut to be thin according to the dimensions specified by the tea ceremony schools and uses, and the tip is curled inward. It is an integral part of Japanese tea culture and the tea ceremony.

The Essence of the Tea Ceremony

In Japan, Tea culture is one of the most important aspect that tells what Japan is. There is a traditional tea ceremony called “chado” or “wabicha. It has developed as a comprehensive art form that spans a wide range of fields, including not only the enjoyment of making and drinking tea, but also the purpose and philosophy of life, religion. And the tea utensils and artwork that decorate the tea room. The tea ceremony is also deeply related to Zen and has given birth to the unique Japanese spiritual culture of “wabi and sabi“.

Chasen: Tea whisk is used for making tea in the tea ceremony. Generally, bamboo is used for the material, but recently metal and plastic tea whisks are also available.

Source: Yamamasa-Koyamaen

Raw materials used for Takayama tea whisk

Three types of bamboo are used for Takayama tea whisk: light bamboo, black bamboo, and sooty bamboo. The easy-to-process light bamboo is boiled to remove oil, and then dried in the sun to whiten it. Drying in the sun is a traditional Alpine custom. Black bamboo is a bamboo whose trunk turns black after about two years, and sooty bamboo is a brownish-brown or candy-colored bamboo that has naturally changed to a smoked color over a long period of time. Each bamboo is used by different schools to make several kinds of Takayama Chasen. The series of arts of making and serving tea in the tea ceremony has become a representative culture of Japan and is well known throughout the world.

Takayama tea whisk
Source: Mono Navi

The Beginning of the Tea Ceremony and Chasen

Tea” in Japan began about 1,300 years ago. It is said that Kobo Daishi brought back tea seeds when he studied in China (the country name at that time was Tang). Later, about 500 years ago, Murata Jukou, who was born and raised in Nara City, founded the Wabi-cha(tee), which later became the tea ceremony. The “chanoyu” that preceded wabi-cha was practiced mainly among people of high status, using gorgeous Chinese tea utensils.

The advent of Japanese style Tea ceremony

While based on this style of tea, Shukoh aimed to create a simple, folk-like, and heart-centered tea ceremony. It was atthis time that Shuko asked his friend Sōsetsu to create tea-stirring utensils appropriate for the tea ceremony. When the emperor of the time saw the tea whisk made by Sosetsu, he highly praised its delicate workmanship and gave it the name “Takaho. Sosetsu was so impressed that he devoted himself to making tea whisk and passed down the secret recipe to his descendants. This led to the famous “Takaho tea whisk,” which was later renamed “Takayama tea whisk.

This was the beginning of the “tea ceremony” and of Takayama Chasen, which is still produced in the Takayama area of Ikoma City, Nara Prefecture. And it accounts for 90% of the total production of tea whisk in Japan. Today, Takayama tea whisk is designated as a traditional handicraft of Japan for its history and techniques. Plus, more than 60 types of tea whisk are still produced in the Takayama area, mostly by hand using a small knife. It is said that before tea whisk was invented, tea was stirred with a teaspoon.

People say that tea made with the curved tip of the tea whisk produces a fine froth, which eases the bitterness of powdered green tea and creates a mellow flavor when the tea is drunk. The soft and flexible bamboo material also makes a lot of sense in terms of not damaging the tea bowl. There are also other type of traditional crafts that make the most of the traits of bamboo, such as Suruga bamboo light, Kyo-folding fan, and Gifu Lantern.

Manufacturing Method for Takayama tea whisk

1. Raw bamboo

The raw material stay left to mature for one to two years and then cut into the required size. Above mentioned, three types of bamboo are commonly used as raw materials: light bamboo, black bamboo, and sooty bamboo.

  1. Light bamboo is characterized by its gentle knots and straight fibers, making it easy to process. The white bamboo is cut and boiled in hot water, then bleached in the sun for about a month to whiten it.
  2. Black bamboo is a member of the Awantake family whose trunk turns black with age and is also called shichiku (purple bamboo) because of its purple-brown stem.
  3. Sooty bamboo is bamboo that has been smoked with soot from a hearth for more than 100 to 200 years, giving it a unique texture.

2. Hegi

This is the first step in the process of making the tip of the bamboo. First, the outer skin of the part that will become the spearhead is peeled. The bark is peeled only on the tip of the spear, not on the handle. Next, the part that will become the tip of the ear is split with a knife. The standard part of the tip is made by splitting it in half lengthwise, then in half lengthwise and so on, just as you would cut a cake. The number of splits varies depending on the thickness of the bamboo, but the minimum is 12 and the maximum is 24. After splitting, the meat is removed and the bamboo is thinned.

3. Kowari

This is the process of splitting the standard portion of the tip made from katagi into even smaller pieces. The splitting is done alternately in small and large pieces. The number of splits depends on the type of finished product to be made. As an example, if you want to make 80 pieces by dividing into 16 pieces, you divide into 10 pieces. The 80 pieces are completed with 80 up ears and 80 down ears. The “up ear” is the outer part of the ear tip, and the outer part is called the “down ear.

4. Ajikezuri (shaving)

This is the process of making the tip of the ear. The tips are soaked in hot water to soften them, and then carefully shaved from the base to make the tips thinner. Ajikizuri is an important process that determines the taste of matcha.

The shape of the tip differs depending on the school of tea ceremony. For example, the tip of the tea whisk used by the Mushanokoji Senke is straight, while that of the Urasenke is curved like a fish hook.

5. Mentori (chamfering)

This is the process of shaving off the two corners of the upper ear one by one. If corners remain, tea tends to stick to them and foam cannot be removed.

6. Lower and upper braiding

After the beveled ears are braided with thread, they are then braided with a double layer of thread to fix the root firmly in place. Most of the chasen is made of black yarn, which is the least likely to be soiled. Other colors include white for the Ishu style, red or red and white for festive occasions, and yellow for Buddhist ceremonies.

7. Koshi-narabe

Using a bamboo spatula, the height and spacing of the lower ears and base are adjusted.

8. Finishing

This is the process of making the final adjustments before packing the rice into boxes, such as the irregularity of the tips and the overall shape of the rice. Any unevenness in height or spacing is corrected in this process to ensure uniformity.

Source: Mono Navi


Takayama’s tea whisk has both a beautifully finished form and function. It may be relatively easy to imitate only the shape. However, it takes a high level of traditional skills to make a tea whisk that is easy to prepare tea and to hold durability. Almost all domestically produced tea whisk is made in Takayama, and the entire region, from the production of raw bamboo to sorting and processing of tea whisk, supports traditional Japanese culture.


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