I have been wanting to experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony for awhile now, so I thought this would be a perfect activity for my mom's visit. We went to the very fancy Imperial Hotel, because I heard they conducted ceremonies in English as well as Japanese. The tea ceremony, or chanoyu, is of great significance in Japanese culture and is derived from Zen Buddhism. This is the beautiful rock garden at the hotel entrance.
We arrived at the tea ceremony room and sat in a very serene waiting area, I wish I had taken a picture! You could see this beautiful , peaceful patio through some large glass doors.
We removed our shoes and entered the tea ceremony room, through a "crawl door", which was just a very small door into a 4x5 foot tatami room. The scrolls are customary and usually depict what season is being celebrated.
The room was very small and darkened, it was a nice break from our busy day of sight seeing.
We began with wagashi, a traditional Japanese sweet. The sweet is thought to balance out the bitter taste of the tea.
On first glance, it looked like some sort of rice ball, but it was very smooth, and slightly sweet. This particular wagashi, was made from red azuki bean paste. They take the beans and mash them with honey or sugar to sweeten them. It almost had the texture of mashed potatoes or refried beans. Interesting.
And now for the tea....
It takes many years to learn the proper way to perform a tea ceremony.
Everything she did was very precise, even how she held the utensils, and how she laid them down.
They stirred the tea, or matcha, with a little bamboo whisk until it was frothy, of course it was the perfect temperature too! Green tea is pretty much a staple in Japan, you will always find it served at restaurants, usually complimentary. It is a bit bitter, but is supposed to be wonderful for skin and hair.
They served each of us in a very precise manner and bowed.
These ladies performing the tea ceremony were very elderly, but they got up and down off the floor with such ease.
The ladies said that the spirit of the tea ceremony is to encourage people to slow down and enjoy the small things, and that every part of the ceremony, including the small dark room, is to encourage unwinding. She also said that in life, changing your mind, is not as important as changing your heart. I liked that.
These are the tea making utensils, and the tea is in powdered form.
Another look at the beautiful patio, just outside the tearoom. Ahhh, makes me wish I was there right now....