Feb. 18, 2016 UPDATE
Enjoy out Matcha in Kyoto!
Experiencing Tea Ceremony
Among those tourists planning a trip to Kyoto, there are no doubt more than a few people hoping to experience something special and unique to the area. Japanese tea ceremony, one of several Japanese teachings imparting the mindset and rituals of the traditional arts, is one such popular cultural experience. The practice came into existence as the result of one merchant's hospitable action of serving tea to his clients. The series of actions he carried out in serving tea and the preparations made were elevated to ceremonial status, thus marking the beginning of tea ceremony. In the first Matcha tea you prepare, and in the cups of tea offered to you at the places you visit, the hospitable feelings of the person serving you will be contained deep within each. I hope this is something you will experience while trying tea ceremony in Kyoto.
Tendai Sect Shorenin TempleNot far from Kyoto's center, the Higashiyama area is a popular sightseeing district home to Maruyama Park, Nanzen-ji Temple, and Shorenin Temple. The latter is famed for its three breath-taking Japanese gardens and the so-called main garden of the three was landscaped in the Muromachi Period (1336-1573) and is popular among visitors. Here, theyvisitors can drink matcha tea while enjoying full views of the garden. In spring, the cherry trees bloom beautifully, in summer, the park is bathed in vivid greens, and in autumn, a sense of sorrow is conveyed in the reds and yellows of the dying leaves. The garden is a place for quiet contemplation and reflection. Despite being just 30 minutes from the downtown area, visitors to the temple can take in the gardens with a sense of calm making Shorenin a must-visit on any itinerary.
Hosen-in TempleIn contrast to Shorenin Temple, Housenin, located in a suburb of Kyoto popular with locals, is a temple roughly an hour from the city center that offers an even-more tranquil vibe. The feeling of sipping on a cup of matcha tea served at the temple while gazing out upon the garden is no different than at Shorenin Temple, but the view is remarkably different. It is often compared to being the kind of view straight out of a painting, and I’m sure you will agree as you take it in from the tatami mat seating. Whatever the season, the garden offers you a magnificent view unique to that particular moment--so captivating you are sure to lose track of time.
Tea Ceremony Room Ju-AnI recommend this tea ceremony classroom to those of you out there that want to try preparing your own tea. With all instruction reassuringly available in English and a prime location next to Kyoto Station, this classroom is the top choice among Kyoto’s Tea Ceremony experience rooms. Here, you can learn about the history of tea ceremony and how to perform it in English. For people new to tea ceremony, the experience offers a friendly introduction to the art and is bound to be a lot of fun. (For participants unable to sit upright on bended knees, it is perfectly acceptable to sit in a more comfortable position. Tea Ceremony Room Juan caters to visitors unaccustomed to traditional Japanese customs and promises a relaxed, friendly learning environment.)
Nakamura tokichi - Main shopHere at Nakamura Tokichi, the experience offered does not stop at a mere tea ceremony experience. Do you know what process matcha powder undergoes to achieve its uniform, fine state? Nowadays, that process is almost entirely mechanized, but tea leaves were originally ground by hand using a millstone, and it wasn’t simply a question of putting the leaves in place, gripping the handle, and turning the contraption. At Nakamura Tokichi, you can learn how to use a millstone to create the perfect matcha powder and marvel at the graceful steps involved in tea ceremony as demonstrated by your teacher. Afterwards, you can enjoy matcha tea prepared with freshly ground tea leaves. Until writing this post, even I was unaware that such a unique experience was offered here in Kyoto!
Tea Picking Event (Obubu Chaen, Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms)For those of you that want the most intrinsic of tea-related experiences, tea leaf picking is a must! At Obubu, you get an experience completely different to the tea picking you would imagine carried out on plantations in India or Sri Lanka. Here, you get chance to pick tea leaves in the traditional costume of a Japanese tea farmer for a unique tea leaf picking experience. (Rest assured that wearing the costume is purely optional and not a prerequisite!) Although the experience is just a one-off thing, the tea farm does also accept interns from overseas, so you will be in good hands and fully able to relax and enjoy the opportunity. Picking the tea leaves with your own hands as you check them for the right texture might just reward you with a heightened appreciation of green tea.