Visiting Japan? Lucky you! Japan is certainly one of our favorite countries, not only because the people are so incredibly kind, the food is amazing and the culture is so rich, but because the tea is out of this world! Of course, no visit to Japan is complete without experiencing the Japanese tea ceremony, and there are plenty of places that offer guests the opportunity to enjoy this unique tradition. Read on for a few of favorites.
What is the Japanese tea ceremony?
Chado (“the way of tea”) is the Japanese method of preparing and serving tea and is perhaps the most ritualistic tea ceremony in existence. It is generally held in a sparsely decorated room with a designated area in which tea is meticulously prepared and served to kneeling guests.
The tea ceremony is rooted in Zen Buddhism and serves as a spiritual practice in which participants are encouraged to remove themselves from the mundane world and truly exist in the moment. Matcha – ground tea leaves – and hot water are added to a chawan (tea bowl) and whisked by a tea master, who uses artful movements perfected over the past few centuries. The bowl of the tea is then presented to guests, often with a sweet treat called wagashi.
Where can I experience the tea ceremony in Japan?
Situated in the heart of Gion – Kyoto’s most famous geisha district – Camellia provides a wonderful tea ceremony experience. At the start of your session, your instructor will welcome you with a brief introduction to the history and culture surrounding Japanese tea, before performing the tea ceremony itself. You’ll also have the chance to make your own bowl of frothy matcha. Not in Japan? No worries! Camellia also offers a virtual tea ceremony that you can enjoy from the comfort of your living room, no matter where you are in the world!
You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d wandered into an enchanted forest when stopping by Hotel Chinzanso in Tokyo, Japan. After all, the bustling streets of the nation’s capital are just outside the doors of this luxurious retreat. Truly an urban oasis, the hotel’s picturesque garden is in bloom throughout the year, and is the site of the hotel’s own traditional tea house. Here, a resident tea master leads a tea ceremony that is sure to be the highlight of your stay.
With roots as a kimono wholesaler, this lifestyle museum of sorts is housed in a machiya (traditional wooden house) and offers a number of Japanese cultural activities travelers can enjoy, including kimono photo sessions, and flower arrangement and calligraphy classes. Of course, tea lovers shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to sit in on a demonstration of the Japanese tea ceremony. For an extra fee, you can enjoy the experience from a VIP seat.
A short drive from Kyoto Station, Joukeian is operated by Matsumoto Soko, a tea master who has more than 30 years of experience in the art of the tea ceremony. You can select from a variety of courses, from a beginner’s introduction class, to the more in-depth chaji course, a four-hour experience. For a truly unique tea ceremony experience, opt for the night course, which is held in candlelight.
Situated in a garden adorned with 500-year-old bonsai trees, Minato tea house is the ideal setting for a serene tea ceremony. Cozy up on a traditional tatami mat and enjoy the views of the garden while you are treated to an unforgettable tea ceremony. If you’re pushed for time, you can also just enjoy a bowl of matcha and traditional sweets.
Locations in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, Japan
With locations across Japan, Maikoya caters to many a traveler hoping to experience the beauty of Japanese culture. Here, visitors can try on a kimono, learn about the culture and history of the tea ceremony through a small exhibition, listen to the symbolism of the ritual from the hosts and watch a demonstration of the tea ceremony. The experience concludes with visitors trying their hand at making matcha tea.
Want to learn more about Japanese tea? Check out Gachi’s Japanese tea offerings here.