A Most Grown Up Tea Party

While I didn’t get to wear a fancy hat, I went to the best tea party ever today: a real Japanese Tea Ceremony!

Two weeks ago I attended a classroom lesson on the history and etiquette of the Tea Ceremony that was quite fascinating.  One of my very favorite parts was learning the Seven Principles of the Tea Ceremony:

*Make tea so that your guest will enjoy it.

*Place charcoal so that it will boil water.

*Arrange the flower as if they are in a natural field.

*Keep the atmosphere of the room cool in summer and warm in winter.

*Be ready ahead of time.

*Prepare an umbrella even if no rain falls, just in case.

*Attune your heart to the other guests.

How charming is that?  Practical and Zen all at the same time!

Tea came to Japan in 1191 as seeds and were first planted in Kyoto.  From 1522 to 1591, Sen Rikyu perfected the Tea Ceremony, and all of his male descendants have carried on the tradition as Tea Masters.  The most formal Tea Ceremonies can take up to four hours!

This week, however, was the main event.  Our instructor, Yuriko-San, invited us to her home so that we could actually attend a real tea ceremony.  This was amazing for two reasons: one, this is not the first class I’ve taken with Yuriko-San, and I find her utterly charming, gracious and delightful and loved spending an afternoon in her company.  Two, it is incredibly rare for Japanese to invite people into their homes, so it was a true pleasure to be allowed this honor.

Yuriko-San first served us the most delicious lunch {Oiishi des!}.  The pretty handled serving dish held the yummiest concoction of finely chopped noodles, mushrooms, vegetables and chicken.  I’d eat it every day {provided I didn’t have to be the one doing all that chopping!}.

Look carefully at the beautiful fruit.  The apples were cut “bunny style” because of course this is the Year of the Rabbit.

Yuriko-San has a special room in her home just for Tea Ceremonies.  At the beginning of the Ceremony, we each had a moment to sit in front of the Alcove and admire the Hanging Scroll and Ikebana floral arrangement she had chosen especially for this season and day.  The Hanging Scroll was of Mt. Fuji and the Ikebana was a chrysanthemum and maple leaf branch, both symbolic of autumn.

After we were all seated, Yuriko-San readied the Ceremony items in a tiny room to the side and emerged from it.  Her carpenter measured out exactly how much space she would need there while kneeling when they designed this room!

Yuriko-San learned the art of the Tea Ceremony from her mother-in-law, and her many beautiful tools are either inherited items or gifts from her late husband.

The whisk for mixing the tea is made from a single piece of bamboo split into 100 parts and woven with threads.  The tea, itself, is stored in that pretty lacquered jar and scooped out with the small bamboo tea scoop.

Unlike in Western cultures, where we eat our sweets with our tea or coffee, in a Japanese Tea Ceremony, you eat your wagashi or sweets first.  I took one of those little round treats wrapped in paper after Yuriko-San told us that was a childhood favorite of hers and I saw that there were two sides to it within.  It was a perfect pop of sweet!

Each of us were mixed our own bowl of tea, and each bowl was different and had it’s own lovely story.  Yuriko-San must have a good sense about people as we all agreed we each got the “right” bowl for us in meaning and also what we would have chosen for ourselves!  After having bowed appropriately to the Tea Master and the guests before and after you, you drink three separate large sips of your tea and then one loud slurp to finish!  Then, you carefully admire the handiwork of the bowl in which you were served your tea.

After the Ceremony, Yuriko-San and the four of us sat and chatted for quite some time.  It was really a great afternoon, and attending a Japanese tea ceremony was one of the {many!} things on my Japan Bucket List, so I’m very excited to have done it.

My knees, on the other hand, are staging a protest and demanding something a wee bit stronger than tea!

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73 Responses to A Most Grown Up Tea Party

  1. swissmisslinda says:

    Fabulous blog!!! Lovely day!

  2. amy says:

    The whole time I was reading this I was thinking OH my knees and got a good laugh when I got to the bottom of the story! I am a tea drinker and found this fascinating!!!! I am enjoying reading about all of your travels!!!

  3. Katharine says:

    I went to a Tea Party given by a woman from my choir. This was years ago when my daughter was a toddler. The party was outdoors and she served the most amazing food. We all were amazed at what she had done. She told us that many dishes she prepared ahead of time and froze it. We didn’t have a ceremony but it was still lovely.

    In Elementary School one of my good friends was Japanese-American and she taught me how to use chop sticks and I ate stuff rolled with rice way before everyone was eating sushi. They also taught me the proper way to eat soup and more. Her home was so lovely and peaceful and a huge difference to my parent’s home which was Swedish. My mom’s home was calm too but nothing like the calmness of a Japanese home. At the time I just figured her parents were strict but now I understand there is more to that calmness. I wish we hadn’t lost track of each other. The last time I saw her was 25 years ago.

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

  4. pnwauthor says:

    I’ve felt fascinated by Japanese culture since my childhood. I swear I must have experienced past lives in Japan. I loved your article on the tea ceremony.

  5. Awesome post! Thank you for sharing!

    I will follow your blog for sure.

  6. “Bunny-style” apples — oh my gosh those are so cute!!!

    Fun post. Congrats on a well-deserved Freshly Pressed nod.


  7. Lovely. I’d like the be able to experience a Japanese tea ceremony one day.

  8. valentinedee says:

    Wow, that was actually very interesting. I love learning about other cultures, and the tea and the fruit looked wonderful.


  9. Darcy Isla says:

    I found this a very appealing (and satisfying and joyful) read as someone who has cup of tea in hand most evenings writing my blog. It’s seemingly a comfort here and more of an art there. My graphic designer friend once produced a book comparing the two completely different approaches to tea (Eastern and Western). I can’t find any evidence of the book online, but his website displays the delicacy and sense of humour with which most of his work is created: http://www.iampeter.co.uk/

  10. I enjoyed your blog. Beautiful felt flowers.

  11. zenlifefrugal says:

    Wow, this is amazing! Thanks for sharing the experience!

  12. Veena says:

    What an honor to be invited to a Japanese tea ceremony! I haven’t been to one but I love the message of taking time to honor tradition, the people around you and paying attention to what you are drinking. A lovely way to awaken the senses! Thanks for sharing.

  13. Karl Drobnic says:

    I’ve been to a few tea ceremonies over the years, and think they’re great, but I’ve never liked that kind of tea used for the ceremony. Does it have to be that particular type?

  14. rastelly says:

    I noticed something about
    the people when visiting
    the UK – and lator when
    my sister took me to eat
    sushie, I noticed something
    about the people there too.
    That is I was overwhelmed
    with sensation that I should
    adopt a straight posture,
    tuck in my shirt, and be on
    my best behavior.

  15. This is so cool, what a wonderful cultural thing to take part in!
    Great post and photos

  16. Beautiful, and very interesting. Thank you for sharing this insight into Japanese culture with us!

  17. Eva McCane says:

    i’ve seen a couple of these on tv. the tradition and attention to detail is amazing. i’d love to be a part of one some day. thanks for sharing!

  18. Domo Arigato Gozaimus,


  19. Alright. A Tea Party with people more grown up than Sarah Palin. LOL Actually it’s nice to see a Japanese tradition. I live in Vancouver and I’ve never been lucky to attend one.

  20. dana says:

    Sounds really fun! I’ve always wanted to do something like this!


  21. This was a really interesting post! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  22. Such elaborate ceremonies! It must feel almost like meditation, all those traditions, and customs and detail. Beautiful.

  23. Not at all what I was expecting when I clicked, but very interesting! You’ve inspired me to try to throw one of my own!

    ~Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One

  24. AJ Balkin says:

    This is really a fascinating post. It will make me rethink the way I do tea around this dojo.

  25. The Hook says:

    Nothing like a little culture to broaden your horizons, right? Great job, young lady!

  26. afrankangle says:

    Wonderful title and good post.

  27. Very very cool – I especially liked the bunny cut food 🙂 I’ve always wanted to do an authentic Japanese tea ceremony – a great opportunity to take part in this fantastic culture.

  28. Beautiful story and great pictures to show us your experience. It looks wonderful! I also love the apples. And the felted flowers got my attention, too. I look forward to following your adventures and your crafts!

  29. I have heard and read about the Japanese Tea ceremony for a long time, but this is the first time anyone has even explained exactly what is done at one. So interesting!


  30. Was it one of the “original” Karate Kid sequels that had a Japanese tea ceremony in it? I was a kid when I saw it and never realized how beautiful and meaningful the ceremony really was. What a wonderful experience! Thank you for sharing.

  31. I was thinking the same thing about the knees and some saki to help with the pain! LOL Aging right?! I love tea and always like to be very deliberate when I make, even in a cup at work with a bag. How wonderful it must have tasted being mixed with a whisk! Mikalee is right, the bunny apples are The Best and I am going to have some for the upcoming holiday. I \was surprised you were able to take such intimate pictures. Thell your host it is appreciated tgaht she shared this energy with all of us. Anoth FP hit, great job! AmberLena

  32. Almost like being there! Great blog!

  33. seule771 says:

    Loveliness abound when one opens interior doors to seldom visited abode. A good story and a lovely hostess.

  34. anotherdaysucks says:

    What adorable ambient!

  35. Great post and photos. Thanks for sharing.

  36. International Travel Chick says:

    This is such a great story! The fruit looked delicious and I loved the presentation.

  37. Beautifull time and the beautiful culture to share with the real traditional play such as your tea time in Japan, I will try to get the most peaceful time for the rest in amoment there .
    Step by step is making us to be proud with Japanese culture.

  38. zorgor says:

    That was a great read – thank you! Congrats on FP!

    Did you know all of the things you had to do in the tea ceremony beforehand, or did she talk you through it as you went?

  39. artclubblog says:

    Beautifully explained. My husband had the good fortune of experiencing a tea ceremony in Japan years ago, so I realize how special it is. I hope you have a wonderful time exploring such a fascinating culture!

  40. feltsocute says:

    We attended a class first and then the actual ceremony two weeks later.

  41. avaafterart says:

    It’s amazing how much care the Japanese people put into their traditions. They really know how to enjoy life, every moment of it. Thank you for documenting this beautiful occasion. -n_n-

  42. I think I will have some tea! You put me in the mood nice blog!

  43. beans8604 says:

    I have always wanted to go to a tea ceremony, the sweets and bunny apples looks so good. We just learned about hanging scrolls in my art class as well, so it was interesting to see one here.

  44. I’ve enjoyed reading your posts, especially the Tapas! (amazing) After living abroad for many years in different parts of the world we are currently based in southern India…tea country. This is a beautiful description of the tea ceremony, thanks so much for posting it. Regarding your crafting, I think you might enjoy this artist’s work: http://raxacollective.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/through-the-looking-glass/
    Enjoy the rest of your time in Japan!

  45. Diana says:

    I was raised in Southern California, where there were a large number of Japanese Americans, and had a very good friend who was Japanese and went to Japanese school every week after our regular school day. Today I work just a couple of blocks from Little Tokyo.I am fascinated by the Japanese culture. How wonderful for you to have such a personal experience with such a traditional ritual. Thank you for sharing this!

  46. I’m not too big on green tea myself. More of an herbal man, Orange Blossom, Passion, maybe some Apple Spice if its the right time of year.

  47. i enjoyed your blog. keep Blogging


  48. Cherie says:

    How wonderful! Life’s little pleasures…

  49. Frances Yeo says:

    How fortunate for you to be able to experience this! I’ve always been fascinated by the Japanese culture and I find tea ceremonies really interesting. I love how they value every little detail.

  50. It sounds like an awesome day! It must’ve felt very special and fun to experience this!
    Thank you for sharing 🙂

  51. Tokyo Jinja says:

    I am so bummed it wasn’t the scrap bows post….I would have been “Freshly Pressed” by association then….Congrats!!!

  52. WOW! I was there on my knees. The wagashi remided me of photos my daughter has from Friendship Day. I think a custom that says eat sweets first has the right idea. I was first attracted by your title, having just helped perform and serve a formal High Tea in September I expected to read about a more european type tea. Imagine my delight when I read your post. My eldest daughter spent 3 years in Iwukuni and my first granddaughter was born in the Air Force hospital in Osaka giving her dual citizenship.
    Thank you so much for a lovely escape.

  53. Kizanne says:

    Reading this took me back 9yrs, to my first overseas trip as an adult – 3 months in Yokohama / Tokyo…… GREAT memories, thank u! Sore knees = major understatement!!!!!

  54. rakhikankane says:

    Interesting Blog…

  55. Elizabeth says:

    What a beautiful tradition!! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!!!

  56. catherine333 says:

    Congratulations on being Freshly pressed and thank you so much for sharing this wonderful experience with us!

  57. Look amazing. Japanese culture is so gracious and beautiful

  58. Natalie says:

    So much peace and joy in one cuppa tea! I loved your report!

  59. Amazing. I would love to experience that for myself someday. 🙂

  60. Sakuma san used to teach ‘Onamaiwa’ and ‘watashiwa’ and while learning nihongo (Japanese language in Japanese) I used to admire their culture of subtle, soft and comforting norms. I made many friends even though I was a ‘gaijin’ (alien) in Japan. Sakuma became one of my best friends. In her apartment I attended tea ceremony and many delicious (yes, oishi desu) diners and we took long walks and visited many shrines and mountain tops. Now that I’m not in Japan, but I know part of me will always live there. ‘Snow country’ and ‘Golden temple’ tend to make a special place in your heart when you read Japanese literature. ‘Misette kudasai’ (let me please see more), as I find myself lost in those flowery but fleeting moments of life. Thanks Meghan.

  61. edward says:

    nice tradition and also tea and fruits are very nice

  62. TisaLira says:

    Love your pics and your post. Thanks for sharing.

  63. this is cute, i would love to do the same. =]

  64. Jenny Cutler says:

    golly – what a lot of comments. Lovely subject. well done.

  65. sarahnsh says:

    This sounds like it was an amazing experience! I saw a thing on T.V. about tea ceremonies and how many steps there are to just drinking the tea, and that you normally eat the sweets first. I would think being down on your knees for that long though would hurt after a while!

  66. SMI SOFT says:

    I would love to be a part of this type of tea parties, thanks for the sharing.

  67. Kate says:

    What a lovely experience, although I think my knees were having sympathy pains while I read about it! I love the Seven Principles of the Tea Ceremony and the bunny apples.

  68. spverma says:

    Being a passionate tea drinker with first hand experience of Japanese tea ceremony,found the blog nostalgic! Good one…

  69. oolung says:

    Humph. I’ve always been fascinated by Japan and here I am – ended up studying Chinese and living in China…! At least I’m in the famous tea-growing city of Hangzhou (the Dragon Well tea comes from here). Love the name of your blog – it’s so appropriate for Japan (they do it in Taiwan too – everything’s ‘ke’ai’ there)!

  70. trialsinfood says:

    great post! so lucky you got to experience that!

  71. mariawriter says:

    Great post, really enjoyed it 🙂 I am fascinated by anything related to the history of tea.

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