Juan tea ceremony room in Kyoto offers workshops in English that offer an insight into the fascinating ritual and tradition of the matcha tea ceremony.
Part way through the tea ceremony workshop we did in Kyoto, I was struck by the thought that what we were doing wasn’t really about the tea. Sure, the tea plays a role, but the ceremony is the main player. Watching our skilled host, Masumi Kirihata gracefully work through the various steps of the ceremony was a mesmerizing and meditative experience.
The Tea Ceremony Room Juan is the only authentic and Zen-consecrated Japanese tea ceremony room in Kyoto where you can experience the Japanese tea ceremony in the form of a workshop conducted in English. The tea house is set inside a Japanese garden at Ryokan Ginkaku in a small side street just a short walk from Kyoto Station.
We arrived there a few minutes before the workshop started, which allowed us to take some more ‘kimono shots’ with the nishikigoi (Japanese Koi) which swam in the garden pond.
The host of the workshop, Masumi, is a Kyoto native, who graduated from Kyoto University of Foreign Studies with a major in English. She is also a certified English tour guide, and a senior Western calligrapher.
In fluent English, Masumi explained the principles and elements of the Japanese tea ceremony ritual and introduced the concepts of Wa –
As with many aspects of Japanese culture, the tea ceremony is a discipline that takes a lifetime to master, and practitioners are constantly refining their art. The tea house, the decor, the utensils, the calligraphy on the wall, the ‘wagashi’ (Japanese sweets served) and what the guests wear, are all important elements in creating the ceremony.
The process is not really about drinking tea, but about the host preparing a bowl of tea from the heart. Every movement and gesture is conducted with a view to how the guests would see it.
Masumi demonstrated the tea ceremony herself, quietly and reverently working through each step. This was the totally mesmerising part. There was a grace, elegance and purpose to each of her movements that had the effect of slowing our breath, and encouraged us to relax and contemplate the beauty of the ceremony.
Then, once we were suitably lulled into a sense of relaxation, we were guided in making a bowl of matcha tea ourselves using the unique bamboo whisk, culminating in us drinking our own product at the end and having two small Japanese sweets. The traditional sweets are intended to balance the bitterness of the taste of the tea.
Matcha tea was introduced to Japan in the 12th century. It is a powdered green tea, which is derived from the same tea plants as black tea, but is grown slightly differently, and the leaves are not fermented, but are steamed and powdered. Once the powder is whisked with hot water in a bowl, the tea is consumed, which means that you drink the whole leaves (unlike most forms of tea where the leaves are steeped in water to create the beverage, but are not actually consumed themselves).
Matcha tea was first used in religious rituals in Buddhist monasteries in Japan. Then, around the 13th century, samurai warriors started preparing and drinking matcha, which consolidated the tea ceremony as a status symbol.
By the 16th century, the ceremony was being practiced by many levels of society in Japan. At that time Sen no Rikyu (possibly the best-known historical figure in tea ceremony) introduced the concept of ichi-go ichi-e, which translates to “one time, one meeting”), a belief that each meeting should be treasured, for it is a once in a lifetime experience.
This workshop was indeed ichi-go ichi-e for us, and highly recommended on any Kyoto itinerary.
Are you a matcha tea drinker? Do you make it with ceremony?
My tip: if you feel inspired to recreate the tea ceremony at home (or just want to make the tea) purchase the matcha kit on sale at the tea house for ¥ 2500. We ended up spending more than that to buy the same items elsewhere and then wished we’d bought one at Juan. The kit consists of: a bamboo whisk, a bamboo scoop and a 30gm tin of matcha powder tea.
The detailsJuan Tea Ceremony Room Address: Ryokan Ginkaku,709 Higashishiokojicho, Kyoto (the tea house is in the garden of the Ryokan)
- Workshops run daily
- Sessions hourly between 11am to 5 pm
- You don’t HAVE to wear kimono (we chose to). It certainly added to the experience.
- Each session lasts about 50 minutes
- Workshop size maximum of 6 guests
- Price ¥2000 per person
- Children up to 12 half price, below 6 free
Japanese address: 〒600-8216 京都府京都市下京区不明門通七条下る東塩小路町709
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#FYBF at With Some Grace