Experience: Tea Ceremony (Tokyo)

Did you know you can visit nearly all of Japan’s 47 prefectures without ever leaving Tokyo?

In recent years, there has been a proliferation of prefectural “antenna shops” in Tokyo (mostly in the Ginza neighborhood). These shops give city residents a taste of the prefectures, while providing former prefectural inhabitants with a taste of home. You can get island-style kariyushi wear from the Okinawa shop, sake from the Niigata store, and dried seafood from Hokkaido. Recently, I dropped by the Kyoto Kan just outside Tokyo station for a taste of Kyoto in the form of a tea ceremony.

The tea ceremony corner at Kyoto Kaikan
The tea ceremony corner at Kyoto Kan

The Kyoto Kan has a wealth of information on Kyoto city and prefecture. In the corner of their shop, they also have a tea ceremony section, for those who may have missed the opportunity to participate in the experience in Kyoto (or who couldn’t make it to Kyoto in the first place). It’s not quite the typical tea ceremony experience but it is highly affordable (¥500 per person).

Instead of just sitting and witnessing the ceremony, however, YOU are the one to be in the hotseat. For some, this might be slightly uncomfortable, as the elderly instructor only speaks Japanese. But for those who much prefer doing to watching, it’s a rare chance to actually participate in a tea ceremony from the tea master’s perspective. You’ll learn how to clean the tea cup, whisk the tea and turn the cup to present it to a guest. Then, perhaps a bit oddly, you hop back across the table and drink the cup of tea yourself, along with a small plate of wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets).

Tea ceremony sweets
Tea ceremony sweets

The tea ceremony at Kyoto Kan is not one I would wholeheartedly suggest to replace the real thing. But if your time is extremely limited and you want a taste – both literally and figuratively – of one of Japan’s most notable cultural experiences, this is a fair substitute.

For more information about Kyoto Kan, visit their website.

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