Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tea Ceremony

Two weeks ago the Tahara International Association invited us ALTs to a tea ceremony that the elementary school students were having. They weren't really taking no for an answer, and since I hadn't yet experienced this aspect of Japanese culture I went. We arrived at a very traditional Japanese style house (supposedly the site where Kazan Watanabe, founder of Tahara, used to live) late in the morning on Sunday.

Handing in our tickets, we were given a piece of paper with a little origami flower attached. This was for our sweets, they told us. Then we were escorted into a room, empty but for some tea things on the floor and a few decorations on the wall where we sat in the seiza position until I thought my legs would fall off. Then the tea came and I had to sit up even straighter.

Tea 001
I'm totally cheating here and sitting partly to the side.

Tea 003

If I thought I was just here to drink tea then I was very wrong. The ceremony part became evident very quickly. There was bowing. There was a certain way to hold the chopsticks to get my sweet, a certain way to hold my teacup, and a certain way to walk in and out of the room - that one I failed at because they told me after I sat down. The woman one over from me whispered instructions to Emiko and me, while I tried to forget how much my legs hurt and remember to enjoy the experience.

The sweets were good though, the very first I have liked here in Japan. And the little girls were absolutely adorable all kitted up in their kimonos. They looked like the Japanese equivalents of baby beauty queens back home.

Tea 004
There was lots of bowing.

Tea 007

Tea 006
Oishi! I don't usually like Japanese sweets but these were good. I had to handle the chopsticks very carefully with precise movements dictated by the ceremony. Needless to say, I messed up more than once.

In the first room, we had a cup of tea, then a sweet, and then another cup of tea. In the second room, we had a sweet (not nearly as good and I had to choke it down) and then a bowl of thick tea that slightly resembled pea soup in looks. I preferred the first, but most of the Japanese I was with preferred the second. Apparently it is the more common green tea drank in Japan.

Tea 009

Tea 011
Three turns clockwise and I'm ready to drink my bowl of tea.

All in all, it was a very good experience. I had a nice time with the ladies from the TIA and it was great to experience some authentic Japanese culture. Several of us even went out for lunch afterwards. We had Italian, which made for a very multi-cultural day. ;-)

More on Japanese tea ceremony here

No comments:

Post a Comment