If you are ever in Kyoto, do yourself (and your soul) a favor: experience one of the most important traditions in Japan, the tea ceremony.
Chanoyu, in japanese, the way of tea, has deep roots in Zen Buddhism, and it is a ceremony involving the preparation and presentation of powdered green tea, matcha.
Now before you start rolling your eyes saying oh but it’s just tea, hold your horses. First of all theres is no such thing in Japan as ‘it’s *just* (insert activity or object)‘. Everything the Japanese do, it’s thoroughly unique. Nothing is just making tea, just making origami, just making sushi, just drinking alcohol. No, my friends. Japanese take it to a level that you had never even considered. That’s one of the numerous insights we got from Japan. Japanese do it better. Period. And the best part? They don’t even notice it. It’s just their nature to do their very best in everything they do. So now that we have that set in stone……
Atsuko Mori has studied the Japanese Tea Ceremony and is now the hostess for Camellia, a Tea Ceremony house in Kyoto, in the Higashiyama area. She received us, as always, with a smile and introduced us to what the tea ceremony is and what it meant to the Japanese, giving us an insight to the history of Japan tea culture.
It is very hard for me to explain exactly what the tea ceremony was for me personally, but I’ll emulate the Japanese and try my best. The whole experience affects all your senses in a delicate and serene way, starting with the textured feel of the carefully and purposely placed tatami underneath your bare feet. It’s only the start of the zen meditation moment you are about to embark on.
Once the ceremony starts, your senses are fully awake, prepared with an wilful anticipation to what’s about to happen. You can hear the boiling of the water and, at the same time, appreciate Atsuko’s very precise and elegant movements while preparing a so simple bowl of tea. Everything has its meaning, place and function, and it’s wonderful to appreciate how everything is entailed, even the timing of each event. The intricate smell of the tea, starts to tease your tastebuds. The moment culminates when the hot ceramic bowl is in your cupped hands, and you take it to your lips, sipping for the first time what you now know it’s the very first taste of the finest tea you have ever had.
Everything is like being in a very pleasant dream.
The tea is accompanied by agar sweets, that vary regarding the seasons. The perfect bite to a perfect drink.
We then made our own bowl of tea. Without much of the delicateness and perfection that was taught us before, we enjoyed the process very much and successfully made a nice cup of warm macha.
This is definitely something you much experience if you visit Kyoto.
hope you enjoyed!