From the research I did before visiting Japan, I added a traditional tea ceremony to my to do list while I was there. Something so completely traditional and unique to their culture! As mentioned before, I found that immersing myself in the culture of a foreign country was the best way to learn about the people and their traditions.
After looking around online for where to go, I found a wonderful place in Tokyo via Trip Adviser called Tea Ceremony and Incense Tranquility. We met with our host at the Jimbocho station where we walked a few steps to get to their venue. After being introduced and handed Kimono’s to wear, we started off with a traditional Incense Ceremony. This is a very old practice and we were asked not to take any photos to respect the sacredness of it all. A wonderful experience indeed as all I knew of incense was the burning of fragrant sticks in the home to make it all smell nice. This was a different practice though where we were shown the ash and smelt the differences between the old fragrant wood. It is seen as a very old practice or Kodo “way of fragrance” and rather sacred among the people as it is so expensive and takes so many years to perfect the practice. The story told to us was very interesting, I would definitely like to attend one of these ceremonies again to soak up more of the history.
The tea ceremony then started with a Sakura sweet with a red bean paste filling to sweeten the pallet before drinking the tea. These tasted unusual and not as sweet as imagined.
Our host then took us through the process of how to clean each and every item used in the tea making process and showed us how to make the tea. The way in which we were all seated also showed the importance of the person seated on either side of her.
It was such a wonderful experience seeing how carefully the tea is made and so much thought and pride is taken into making the tea!
Then it was our turn to make a cup of tea for someone.
I did it!
Some delicious little sugary sweets were put out onto the table that we could enjoy before drinking the tea in order to take the bitterness from the tea away. Something super interesting we were told was that green tea is different to the matcha we were drinking that day. Green tea can be found in a powdered form after the leaves have been ground finely but these green tea leaves are actually found at the top of a green tea bush, these are the leaves that have been in the sun and as a result the tea is a yellow, almost transparent colour. Matcha on the other hand is from the shaded leaves on the bush and is a lot thicker looking and bright green as well as having 137% more antioxidants than the regular green tea!
After our tea drinking we were handed boards and calligraphy pens and taught how to draw bamboo shoots and to write our names in Japanese! We all felt quite artistic indeed!
I was sad once the ceremony and lesson had ended, the fastest 3 hours I think I have ever experienced. Only critic I would make is that there wasn’t enough time to completely soak up all the information with all the various activities we completed and traditions we were told about. I do think I will have to go back and enjoy it all again!