CIRs are all entrusted with translations from time to time, and in an office with multiple English-speaking CIRs, we try to keep our translations consistent. Sometimes we don’t, though–occasionally when working on the same project, we’ll notice some parts are in British English while others are in American English, too. In talking with other CIRs, I’ve noticed there are big projects to make a compilation of all the commonly referenced sites and road and stations and their official English (and otherwise) translations, because different sources may translate them in different ways. These projects are often started out of the CIRs’ own initiative, I’ve noticed.

In my own translations of the local sites of the tea-loving city of Matsue, I liked having a couple of sempai to discuss translations with, especially when we’re all so used to the Japanese terms. One day we needed a quick name for a the Daichakai (大茶会), one of the three biggest tea events in the country hosted at Matsue Castle every October. This year, schools of 11 different styles of the tea ceremony (everything from your usual Urasenke and Omotesenke, to the local Fumai style, to styles that use sencha (steeped green tea) and koucha (black tea) instead of the typical matcha (powdered green tea)) all had tents set up around the Matsue Castle grounds, as well as the nearby Meimei-an teahouse.

At this Daichakai, you buy a ticket–or set of three tickets–to be used at any tent (or tea house), and each one has a reception area and a waiting area, and then you are invited in to the tables and chairs (or tatami mats–for simplicity’s sake, I’ll just focus on the tents at the castle). There is a display of flowers and a hanging scroll set up, as well as an area where the tea master will prepare the tea and everyone can watch. Another practitioner of the school will usually explain what is going on, and what tools are being used, and the characteristics of the confectionary being served. This way, both people who are well-versed in the world (art? way?) of tea as well as completely beginners can enjoy the ceremony.

The ceremony is kept short, with most of the tea being prepared in the back and only the tea for the guests of honor prepared on display. In my Omotesenke school, my classmates were timed during practices to keep it short enough that people do not get bored, but long enough that people get the atmosphere they came for–roughly 8 to 10 minutes. After everyone has had their sweets and tea, the guests are welcome to observe the tools and decorations and ask questions about them on their way out of the tent, and then they move on to the next style of tea to try out while the following guests take their seats. Given the amount of caffeine one consumes, I suggest seeing two schools in one day and seeing a third the following day! The practitioners preparing the tea also get a chance to enjoy other styles, as usually one school of a given style will practice it only one day, so they can browse around on the other day of the weekend festival.

So… what would you call this in English?

A chakai is literally a “tea-meet” and “dai” makes it a “big-tea-meet.” You can call it a tea ceremony, but it’s many, many tea ceremonies in one big festival, but “ceremony” sounds a little stiff and “festival” sounds a little too rowdy. You could go with “tea party” but I think it has different connotations in English–it sounds more like tea time with friends in Western style as opposed to the more ritualistic tea meeting of Japanese style.

We’ve tentatively been using “Grand Tea Ceremony” as a semi-literal translation that sounds a little better than “Big Tea Ceremony,” but I don’t really like the flow of it. I supposed anything can sound normal once you use it enough, though. Got it, everyone? Starting talking about Matsue’s Grand Tea Ceremony all the time so we hear these words everywhere! Or, since this is still flexible, does anyone have any smoother suggestions?

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