Fukusa (a double-layer square piece of silk cloth) (帛紗)

Fukusa is a piece of cloth used in handling tea utensils mainly in a tea ceremony. Fukusa can be written as either 服紗 or 袱紗. It is usually made of silk, but one made of cotton is also used in senchado (the way of brewed green tea).

Usually, a purple fukusa made of shiose (a type of silk fabric) is used. Women may use a scarlet fukusa, which helps making lipstick marks unnoticeable. The sizes are either 27.27 cm in width by 30.03 cm in length, or 28.78 cm in width by 45.45 cm in length.

Fukusa handling in tea ceremony

Fukusa is used to clean chaire (ceramic tea caddy), natsume (wooden tea caddy), chashaku (bamboo tea spoon for making Japanese tea) or other tea utensils, or to remove a kettle lid.

Fukusa is indispensable in tencha (making tea), and its handling is specially referred to as 'fukusa sabaki' (handling of fukusa).

There are a series of manners for cleaning chashaku or chaire, which require complicated fukusa sabaki.

One example of fukusa sabaki is to fold fukusa in triangle and tuck it into the obi sash, at the lower rim of the obi sash when the person who is to make tea is a man, or at the upper rim of the obi sash when the person is a woman, before entering the tea room. After the person is seated, he or she removes the fukusa, takes it by its end in the right hand, place the thumb of the left hand on its center, fold the fukusa in half, take it in the right hand, and clean the chaire or natsume. When removing the kettle lid before making tea, the person holds the tsumami (knob on the kettle lid) with fukusa, removes the lid and places it on the futaoki (lid rest).

Before cleaning the chashaku after making tea, the person performs fukusa sabaki as he or she did in the first step, wipes off the tea powder on the upper part of the chashaku handle above the nakabushi (a node in the middle of the handle), brings the fukusa over the kensui (rinse-water receptacle) while holding the chashaku, and flicks away the powder on the fukusa with the right hand.

After using the fukusa, the person folds it in triangle as he or she did at the beginning, tucks it in the obi sash and goes out of the room.

Fukusa handling in senchado

In senchado, fukusa is usually used for cleaning charyo (chago, a tea measuring cup) or chaire (chatsubo [tea canister] in senchado). Although its handling varies depending on the school, it is placed in the tea room before starting temae (tea serving method) in most of the schools. In nodate (open-air tea ceremony), it is usually carried in a teiran (basket for tea set) along with other tea utensils.

[Original Japanese]