The Art of the Tea Ceremony in Japan

Japanese green tea set
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Tea ceremonies in Japan are a beautifully choreographed tradition steeped in history of preparing and serving tea. But it’s more than stirring into a teapot and serving and receiving tea. In a fast-paced life where everyone is seemingly in a hurry to go somewhere, most of us almost never notice the little things we have in life. One of the main purposes of tea ceremonies is for the guests to appreciate these little things and to enjoy the hospitality of the host. It’s more than the tea poured in your cup but Zen Buddhism itself. Unlike before where a tea ceremony is done and held exclusively, nowadays it is practiced as a hobby and there are many places for tourists to experience the beauty and zen of a tea ceremony. With its varying levels of authenticity and formality, some of them are held in traditional gardens with cherry blossom trees towering over you or maybe in exclusive cultural centers and hotels. But what is it truly all about?

tea ceremony japan
Source: asiaculture.info

During the 8th century, the time where tea was first introduced to Japan from China, tea was used for its medicinal purposes and served only to the upper-class and priests. It wasn’t until the Muromachi Period (1336-1573) that tea was served to people of all social classes. Tea parties became a popular leisure activity where people show off their exquisite collection of tea porcelains and flaunt their knowledge of the drink and accompanying snacks. It was also around this time where a quieter and more refined version of tea parties developed, one that gives off a Zen-inspired feeling in the atmosphere with an emphasis on spirituality. Gradually, the tea ceremony became a spiritual process, where people who participate in remove themselves from any negative thoughts or feelings, releasing themselves from the mundane world they live in and emerge into a more positive, peaceful harmony-seeking world.

The father of the modern way of tea was Sen No Rikyu (1522-1591) and most of his teachings are still being used in tea ceremonies in Omotesenke and Urasenke. Everything is done carefully and for the well-being of both the host and participants. Most hosts who study the art of preparing and serving tea takes years to master the practice with a thorough background when it comes to philosophy, art, calligraphy, and aesthetics.

tea ceremony Tokyo
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A typical formal tea ceremony begins with a kaiseki course meal, followed by a bowl of thick tea and ends with a bowl of thin tea. However, most tea ceremonies nowadays limit it into just a bowl of thin tea but this doesn’t change the beauty of the ceremony. A tea ceremony is not just defined by the usage of exquisite and authentic tea, but also the hand movements, the fluid dance around the chinaware, and the preparation of the tea itself. There are various schools in the city that teaches the right way of preparing tea and although most tourists aren’t expected to know every detail of it, they must at least have the basic knowledge of the event to make it a dignified matter.

There are certain rules which one must follow to fully enjoy the beauty of tea ceremonies.

  • To start with, if one can’t wear kimono, at least be dressed conservatively. Wear modest clothes and avoid wearing too many jewelry and perfume
  • Don’t be late when attending the tea ceremony. This is to pay respect for those who arrive early
  • Remove your shoes and wear the designated slippers to use. Wait to be invited in
  • Avoid using fists when touching the tatami mats and do not step in the middle of the mat
  • Show appreciation not just for the delicious sweets and tea served but also with the efforts of the host
  • Avoid small talk. This is for the reason that the host wants the guests to focus more on the ceremony itself
Tokyo tea ceremony
Source: travel-associates.com.au

A tea ceremony is a great way of learning more about the beauty found in these tiny leaves steeped in history, art, and culture of Japan. And what better way to emerge yourself in this beautiful affair by signing yourself up for an event which introduces tea ceremonies?

Tokyo by Food offers a Japanese Tea Ceremony Class in Asakusa where you can easily learn all the wonders of tea ceremonies, its beautifully rich history, and the art of preparing and serving matcha. Aside from that, you will also learn how to properly drink your tea and the important do’s and don’ts in a tea ceremony. A delectable Japanese sweet will be served, which is best paired with the tea you made. Family and friends are sure to enjoy this tea ceremony where you will appreciate more the beauty of harmony and peace.

She’s cooking and baking for her family and friends. She finds grocery shopping therapeutic, always takes the longest time in the Asian section and debates with herself whether she needs that extra pack of instant ramen. A lover of sweets, she dreams of owning a patisserie and publishing her book but most of the time, she’s just really thinking of what to eat for breakfast the next day.

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