Our Japan Travel Specialist Tuck is a self-confessed tea addict. Living in Japan, Tuck has been lucky enough to witness the ceremony first-hand and became enthralled by the ritual that accompanies the moment, rather than the tea itself – which by her own admission is not to her taste!
Tea ceremonies are still commonly performed in many nations in Asia, especially China, Japan and South Korea. The ceremonies themselves are often elaborate and refined symbolic performances that can last for hours and it’s the insight into Japanese culture that Tuck loves so much.
“For me, the ceremony is a delightful way to learn about Japan,” explained Tuck as she describes a section of a tailor-made tour she’s putting together for a client from Minneapolis, USA. “The precision of each movement, the way that each tool has a specific job and how nothing is rushed with no corners cut. I think this says so much about the culture of Japan I know and am fascinated by.
“To be honest, it’s not the tea that I join the ceremony for; it’s the study of an art form that’s retained its crucial principles for hundreds of years that I love so much. I’d recommend any traveler coming to Japan to enjoy the experience at least once.”
As China is the accepted birthplace of tea, it’s logical that the origin of the tea ceremony also began in China. Legend has it that a Buddhist monk brought the idea of the ceremony with him back to Japan in the 9th century.
By the 16th century tea drinking had become popular in all levels of society in Japan but the symbolic principles remained constant no matter who was doing the drinking. The ceremony follows a set of Buddhist philosophies such as harmony, respect, purity and tranquility – principles that increased the popularity of the ceremony during a time of turmoil in Japan.
With the samurai rebelling against the central government, many sought solace in the practice of religion and the Zen philosophy, which involved practice of the tea ceremony.
Any venue that can seat guests is acceptable to host a tea ceremony as long as there is room to set out the equipment necessary to make the tea, although purpose-built rooms called chashitsu are ideal. These rooms have hearths built into the floor that the host will use to make the tea in the presence of the guests.
It’s to one of these chashitsu that Tuck has just finished arranging for one of her clients to visit, led by one of our local Backyard Travel guides. On the tour the client will be able to discover the meaning of each movement and how to make and serve the tea before trying their hand at serving.
If you would like to feel more connected with the local culture during your trip to Japan, Tuck can arrange your own private bespoke trip, complete with insider experiences like this. If you’re looking for tour inspiration, take a look at our ‘An Eye For Beauty: Japan’s Art and Culture’ tour which is already packed full of fascinating insights into Japanese society and can be easily tailored to include a Japanese Tea Ceremony experience.
Make an inquiry now and start planning your dream Japan vacation with us!