Updated: February 25, 2020
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Tea Ceremony in Tokyo - Where to Experience It

The ancient Japanese tradition that turns tea preparation into art continues to attract thousands of tourists every year. Here's where to experience it with tea masters!

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The History

The Japanese tea ceremony, or chanoyu (茶の湯), is dated back to the 9th century, when the Buddhist monk Eichu (永忠) brought it back from China.
The ceremony, also called The Way of Tea, revolves around the preparation and presentation of matcha (抹茶), powdered green tea.
Over the centuries, the ceremony evolved to become an art form, heavily influenced by Buddhism philosophy, and wabi-sabi aesthetic.

The scholar Okakura Kakuzō (1862–1913) sums up the idea beautifully in his 1906 "Book of Tea":

"It (Teaism) insulates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order. It is essentially a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life."

The Ceremony

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Tokonoma alcove with kakemono scroll and ikebana.
The ceremony is traditionally held in a tatami room with a tokonoma alcove with a kakemono scroll that usually symbolizes the season and may feature well-known sayings, particularly those associated with Buddhism, poems, descriptions of famous places, or words or phrases associated with tea.

A flower arrangement, or ikebana, is also indispensable. It should give the viewer the same impression that those flowers naturally would if they were still growing outdoors, in nature.
Besides the preparation and serving of the tea, the practice is also accompanied by a light kaiseki meal and a small wagashi sweet.
The entire ceremony might take up to 4 hours.
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Tea and wagashi sweet.
The use of a kimono is also intrinsic to the ceremony. Since all movements are thought of during the preparation and presentation, the kimono is essential to perform the prescribed motions properly.
The guests may wear a kimono or western formal wear.
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Tea ceremony hosts wearing Kimono.

Where to Go

If you want to learn all the ins and outs of tea ceremony, taking a tea ceremony experience class is the way to go! There are currently nearly 40 different classes listed in Tokyo on AirKitchen's site, many of which include learning how to make traditional Japanese sweets or other food items in addition to a tea ceremony. Check it out:
If you don't have time to participate in a class and just want to go drink tea at a traditional tea house, the tea houses below are great options to consider.

Chazen

Located in the posh neighborhood of Ginza, Chazen offers its guests an authentic tea ceremony with wagashi sweets.
Although located inside an urban building, the flawlessly decorated space is incredibly silent, allowing you to completely immerse yourself in the peaceful experience.
The host has been a master for over 30 years and can explain all the procedures in English or Chinese.
Guests also have the chance to prepare their own cup of tea.

Warakuan Tea House

The Warakuan tea house is on the Inokashira line, a 5-6 minute walk from Komabatodaimae Station, in a quiet residential area.
The tea master's house has a delightful garden covered in beautiful moss, and the sound of water flowing will take you a world away from the city's restlessness.
The ceremony is hosted by the master and his family and lasts about 3 hours.

Nadeshiko Kimono Tea Ceremony

If you feel like full-on traditional, try Nadeshiko Kimono Tea Ceremony!
Nadeshiko is primarily a kimono rental shop, but they also offer a complete tea ceremony with wagashi sweets.
Not only will you learn all about the ritual, but you'll also learn how to put on a beautiful silk kimono.

Nakajima-no-Ochaya

Nakajima-no-Ochaya is located inside the beautiful Hamarikyu Garden that dates back to the 16th century.
For a more relaxed and accessible experience, here you will make your own tea. Instructors are available to assist you with any doubts, but this is a DIY ceremony!
Enjoy the view while you prepare your own matcha tea!

Suntory Museum of Art

The Suntory Museum of Art’s, besides exhibiting a vast collection of Japanese arts and crafts, offers an authentic Japanese Tea Ceremony. The traditional room is constructed using original materials from the museum’s founding in 1961.
It's the perfect day-time tour if you're visiting Tokyo!

Sakurai

The tea master Shinya Sakurai has extensively traveled throughout Japan for 14 years in hopes of finding the best teas before opening his own tea house.
You can book a Sakurai Japanese Tea Experience, in which the master will serve various kinds of tea and you can also get to taste the roasted tea leaves.
A memorable experience!

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