Authentic tea ceremony in a beautiful 100-year-old traditional Geisha ryokan near Kiyomizu Temple
A special guest post for Deep Kyoto today by Atsuko Mori of Camellia Tea Ceremony…
The tea ceremony (sado) is a quintessential part of Japanese culture and is considered the height of sophistication. What do you first think of when you hear ‘tea ceremony’? Japanese culture, green tea, geishas, kimonos, tatami rooms, religion? How about movies such as Karate Kid or Last Samurai? I often receive these kinds of answers from my foreign guests. How about if I ask the same question to Japanese people? “Difficult”, “it’s an old woman’s thing”, “too many rules”, “I want to try it but hesitate because it sounds too hard and expensive” etc. Okay, I understand how they feel, but if they gave it a chance, they just might grow to love it as I do.
You can experience sado anywhere in Japan but there are a many advantages to doing it in Kyoto. Matcha is green tea in powder form and the highest quality products come from Uji (a city to the south of Kyoto). As for water, there are several underground rivers bringing fresh spring water from the nearby mountains to some shrines, and this is why Kyoto is also famous for tofu and sake.
Kyoto is definitely the centre of culture, with a thousand years of history as the capital. I have been living in Kyoto for four years and there are still many temples and gardens I have not visited. If a business is less than a hundred years old, it is still considered ‘new’ for Kyoto.
So here I am, a woman from Osaka, starting my tea ceremony shop in the heart of Kyoto, a stone’s throw from the beautiful Kiyomizu temple. Thousands of tourists walk up and down this beautiful street every day, searching for something Kyoto-ish to do. We’ve only been open for a few months but already we have received hundreds of guests from all over the world.
Something that is difficult to convey, is that the tea ceremony is not just about drinking tea. The tea master and guests are mere participants in a spiritual experience with a basis in Zen philosophy. The ceremony is a meditation. It is a way of connecting to a larger world. We treat the utensils with respect and care, so that they create harmony with us.
When you enter the tea room, you leave your troubles and worries behind in the real world. Once inside, you hear nothing but the sound of boiling water, which will relax you and put you in a peaceful state of mind. The drinking of tea and the ceremony that surrounds it have been important in Japan for many centuries, so if you really want to understand Japanese culture, you have to experience the tea ceremony at least once. And believe me, you won’t be disappointed.
It is my desire to open a door to this beautiful world for everybody. You can’t learn it all in just an hour, but you can get a feel for the four fundamental aspects of the way of tea, which are: harmony, respect, purity and tranquility (pronounced wa-kei-sei-jaku).
The shop is located on historical Ninen-zaka street. Here the history of tea and the tea ceremony are explained in fluent English, and then you can see a demonstration. After that, guests get a chance to make a tea by themselves with a bowl and a bamboo whisk.
Thank you to Deep Kyoto for letting me talk about my shop here on your highly-respected and widely-read blog. It would be my honour to welcome your readers and give them a taste of rich culture and delicious Uji tea.