Kado, Chado, and Kodo: The Japanese arts of refinement

Kado, Chado, and Kodo: The Japanese arts of refinement

April 08, 2019

Here at banabox, we are very focused on ikebana and introducing this ancient art to new practitioners through our monthly boxes. Ikebana literally translates to "arranging flowers," and it is also referred to as ka-dō, which has the more spiritual meaning "the way of flowers."

However ka-dō is not the only cultural practice to emerge from medieval Japan. Cha-dō ("the way of tea") and kō-dō ("the way of fragrance") were also practiced by samurais and noblemen, and together the three "ways" are known as the ancient Japanese arts of refinement.

The Nakajima-no-ochaya teahouse in Tokyo

Many people who visit Japan experience cha-dō through the famous Japanese tea ceremony, which was brought over from China 900 years ago and developed over time into an intricate, multi-hour ritual. It's best understood as a ceremony of Zen Buddhism, with a hanging scroll of calligraphic poetry and an expression of gratitude for the offered tea contributing to a highly spiritual experience.

Tools for the tea ceremony

Kō-dō is not quite as well known, but like cha-dō it revolves around a ceremony with prescribed rituals and procedures developed over centuries. Here, a series of fragrant hardwoods are heated on a special ceramic plate placed over charcoal. Participants don't "smell" the incense, but rather they "listen" to it. In a unique twist, guests play a kind of guessing game to identify the type of wood being offered by the host.

The ceramic container used in Kō-dō

Taken together, the three Japanese arts of refinement reveal a culture that places a high value on tradition - their resonance is derived in part from how they were carefully developed by generations of masters. They also demonstrate the importance in Japan of expertise and perfection in all pursuits. In ikebana, you can still attain new levels of mastery 50 years into your practice! But don't be intimidated, a lifelong journey into ka-dō, cha-dō, or kō-dō begins with a single step!