Can Tea Save Non-warriors and Women? The Japanese Tea Ceremony as an Empowering Public Sphere

  • Etsuko Kato (Autor/in)

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This article examines what kind of "public sphere" the tea ceremony, a 400-year-old Japanese art, is providing its contemporary practitioners with, and what significance the sphere has for them. Diachronic comparison between social groups that practice(d) the tea ceremony today and in the Edo period (1603-1867), namely, women and non-warriors respectively, reveals unique empowering effects on the "politically second-from-top" people. Unlike Habermas' concept of the bourgeois public sphere in 17th to 18th century Europe as a cradle of modern democracy, the tea ceremony has not led to political changes. Rather, it has provided its practitioners with an apolitical and empowering public sphere that defies the worldly order of political power. Today this public sphere is especially significant for women practitioners, most of whom are housewives, enabling them to sustain and expand their own empowering sphere outside home and to be socially acknowledged as "guardians of tradition".