My first Japanese tea ceremony experience
Japan is known all over the world for their culture, especially the tea ceremony. Visitors from all over the world would like to experience this as the tea ceremony preparation and presentation of matcha is one of a kind.
Being my 4th time in Japan, I have been to Kyoto but never got the chance to experience a Japanese tea ceremony. Who would ever have thought that you would be able to experience such ceremony in the rural town of Omagari, a place known for their fireworks.
We were warmly welcomed to a huge household and were mesmerised by the history behind it. Apparently the house owner’s family had decades of business in the shipping industry. To our disbelief, back then before the train existence, people in this village used to transport through the River by their house. Furthermore, this property of theirs have been preserved for many years even the antique items from Meiji period.After the introduction and the tour of the property of the family house , we were invited into their home. I couldn’t help myself from taking photos of their cosy traditional Japanese home as it looked exactly like it was from the olden days.This was a more informal ceremony and so it’s called a Chakai ( Tea gathering ). We were surely expecting nothing but only matcha but apparently, the Japanese way for relatively simple course of hospitality includes desserts, delicacies and of course more of other kinds of tea.
It started with us being served a tray of various delicacies. What excites me was not the food. Instead, these ladies in kimonos, walking gracefully into our room in small steps and slowly placing the meal in front of us and ended with a sentence ” Enjoy your meal” , and a bow.They were the most elegant waitresses I ever seen in my life. No words can describe how honoured I felt from the start of this ceremony. And so, it was time to indulge in these delicacies and it was red bean soup, pickles and preserved persimmon cubes garnished in cold shredded radish and carrots. The tray presentation was beautiful.
Then after finishing our desserts, there came the lady whom would perform the tea ceremony. She have learnt the tea ceremony from Kyoto and according to the host, procedures vary from school to school, and with the time of year, time of day, venue, and other considerations. Since we came in the autumn, our desserts were based on that season as well.
Her entrance started with a bow before entering. We all bow in return to show our respect as well.And next, for a few minutes, everyone was silent and watching her picking the bamboo ladle and scooping hot water from the Iron pot rested on the “ro”. From the folding handkerchief to cleaning the ladle, everything was like an art performance with the same posture. I just couldn’t believe how were they able to make the task of cleaning look so elegant.
And after the cleaning of her tools, she then started picking up the green tea powder, gracefully scooping it into her bowl.
She then whisks it in a fast pace but still look calm and professional while doing it.
Meanwhile, the other lady starts serving us some small sweet (wagashi) eaten from special paper called kaishi.
As she finished with the 1st matcha ceremony, we were then served by the others our matcha drink.And I watched how gracefully as she pick her orange handkerchief, folds in a nice shape and gently cleans her ladle.
Then, comes my matcha. The bowl was as big as the size of my palm. It looks like a whipped creamy drink but when I tasted it, it had a foamy top texture and a bitter taste in the end. It totally taste different from the matcha latte from Starbucks. However, the taste of it resemble to tea but not quite the same. It is sure something I would love to have again as I love the foamy light texture.
Well, in contrast, the sweets were extremely sweet and so, I do recommend eating them after drinking instead of before. Then, you won’t think that the matcha taste super bitter. As we were sitting and talking, the host were talking about the history of calligraphy painting on their wall. By the painting, is a pot of flower arrangement.It is known that these two decorations are very important during a tea ceremony.
Lastly, we were served Ojicha which is the roasted tea. The ceremony ended with our tea master’s sleek and short performance waving her hands after cleaning the tools. She explained that this art movement is abstract in her own way to show how the autumn leaves gently blown away. She then bows at the door and we all bow as well.
It was such an honourable experience to experience such ceremony. It was quite different from the tea ceremony I had seen from the TV programs before. What I felt during this ceremony was more to a personal level. We all agreed that it felt homely, welcoming and not like some other tea ceremony performance played like a role to entertain guests. It was genuine and sincere. I must say, I’m proud to have experience this ceremony in Omagari instead of Kyoto.As we left the house, there came a bunch of adorable toddlers in a huge pram pushed by their teachers. It was such an adorable moment I just couldn’t resist sharing this picture.Best fusion meal
And next, our lunch in Omagari was one of the best Japanese western fusion meal I ever tasted in my life.
Christian ordered the fried chicken with the Udon set that comes together with soft drink, ice cream and dessert later.While I ordered this Poached egg Udon cabonara with Mexican thin slice pizza and creme brulee , ice cream as a dessert. I totally recommend this meal! Don’t you feel hungry even looking at this?Well, after such a scrumptious lunch, we then headed next with lots of excitement as we were going to make Imitated Fireworks(Hanabi)