Tokyo Travels Part 10: Tea Ceremony

The second stop on our Hato bus tour was a Tea Ceremony at the Happo-en Garden, a beautiful facility popular with tourists and weddings.

A traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony can easily run more than two hours, and it is an elegant, peaceful, and spiritual event.  It's highly traditional, with history dating back centuries. You can learn more here.

We had the 15 minute version.

I imagine there are traditionalist who consider the type of activity we had to be an offensive dilution of cultural heritage.  I am fully aware that we did not have a truly authentic experience.  We had one for tourists.

I'm okay with that.  We had a snapshot of the experience.

They split our group into two smaller groups and funneled us into the small tea house. They asked that we step over, rather than on, the threshold because it's so old.  That may have been a mistake. One thing I learned when I took my motorcycle riding class (stop laughing) is that you should not look at obstacles in the road.  You should look at the path around them.  If you look at something, you will hit it.  And many people, while focusing on  avoiding the threshold, naturally ended up stepping right on it.

I like the steam coming off the pot in these images.

One we were seated, our tour guide and the hostess explained the ceremony and its importance, they discussed details, such as where the most important guest sits, and talked about the different implements involved in making the tea, or Matcha. She made the first cup of tea while we watched.

They served the tea to the 20 or so of us in the room from a separately made batch, Food Network style.

They explained the importance of appreciating the artwork on the cup and the beauty of the tea...

And they told us how to hold the cup...

The Shoebox Chef gives Matcha a try.

It's a taste I wasn't terribly familiar with.  It has a slight bitterness to it, I suppose. I don't generally do a good job describing flavor.  But I enjoyed the Matcha.  I must have.  Because later in the trip I had Matcha ice cream (excellent), a Matcha Latte at Starbucks (okay, but perhaps a little weird for me) and Matcha Kit Kats (which were awesome -- stock up at the airport).

After our cup of tea, we were off to wander the grounds, while the next group came into the tea house.

Immediately outside the tea house, the grounds hosted a shrine.   This is the purification station for the Daigo Shrine.

The grounds also had a lovely Koi pond.

We also had a back stage view of wedding preparations as several wedding parties were there getting pictures taken.

A guest in a kimono chats on her cell phone.

It was just a taste of a traditional experience, and I'm grateful we had the chance to participate.  It's also one reason I'm glad we took the bus tour.  I'm not sure I'd have figured out how to set this up on my own.

You can read more about this trip here.

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