Tea Ceremony – Osaka, Japan

One of the highlights of my trip to Japan was being able to experience a formal tea ceremony. This—thanks to Maiko’s mom, and her friend Morinaga-san.

Morinaga –san invited us to her beautiful home, which happens to have a traditional tea room. Not all Japanese houses are blessed with a tea room and Morinaga-san said she felt lucky to have found this house years ago.

The first thing we saw was a wonderful Japanese garden in the front yard. Morinaga-san had decorated and designed the space herself.

japanese garden

 Japanese garden

After admiring the garden, we entered the front doors and walked into a foyer unlike any I had ever seen before. As is the Japanese way, we removed our shoes by the entrance and wore the slippers Morinaga-san had prepared for us.

entrance to the house

 Traditional Japanese Foyer

After giving us a tour of the house, Morinaga-san led us to the tea room.

tea room

Japanese tea room

Maiko translated as Morinaga-san introduced the various equipment used in traditional tea ceremonies.

tea stand

Sitting above the custom tea stand is the natsume, which contains the macha or green tea to be used in the ceremony. Morinaga-san said that in the days of the samurai, no swords were allowed in the tea room, but the threat of shoguns or daimyos being assassinated via poisoning was still there. To make sure the tea wasn’t poisoned, the natsume was made with a lacquer that would change color if the tea was poisoned.

Other equipment include:

fukusa -orange cloth used to clean the tea devices

chasen – tea whisk, carved from a single piece of bamboo

chasaku – tea scoop, also carved from a single piece of bamboo

The red pot in the bottom of the stand contained water for refilling the kettle, should the guests wish for more tea.

There is a ceremony to each aspect of tea-serving and Morinaga-san said she studied the art on and off for about 8 years, before finally getting to the level she is at now.

Morinaga-san explained that there is a certain way of sitting  during a tea ceremony. The host has to sit at a specific angle from the corner of the hot kettle area.

morinaga san

 Morinaga-san preparing the tools for the tea ceremony

Morinaga-san placed plates of sweets before us and encouraged us to eat them before she served the tea. The sweets will coat our mouths with sugar, so as to dampen the bitterness of the ceremonial green tea.

The sweets served are often designed based on the season, so Morinaga-san served us sweets shaped in traditional fall/winter items–such as the orange maple-leaf and the white daikon.

 

sweets

sweets to go with the tea

Morinaga-san began by first cleaning the natsume (tea container), chasaku (tea spoon) and tea bowls with the fukusa or orange cloth. She  warmed up the tea bowl with water from the kettle and placed a few scoops of green tea before adding hot water.

tea pot

She then used the chasen (tea whisk) to mix the green tea and hot water.  She explains that the front of the tea bowl should always be facing the guest.

cups

 decorative tea bowls

The guests are expected to make comments about the bowls, or compliment their designs as way to start conversations.

The best bowls are often reserved for the guest of honor. I was very touched and deeply honored that Morinaga-san used the best bowl for me.

In the olden days, Morinaga-san said that people often spewed haikus or tanka (short poems) while being served the tea.

The Tokonoma is also another source of conversation. The Tokonoma is an alcove where a scroll containing calligraphy or a piece of art is displayed, along with some flower arrangements and decor on the bottom.

Usually, guests will ask the host about the theme she chose for the alcove’s decoration.

with morinaga san

Maiko and I posing with Morinaga-san in front of the Tokonoma

As the hostess, Morinaga-san wasn’t allowed to partake of the tea and the sweets, as her main job was to entertain her guests.

Morinaga-san asked all us if they wanted another cup –naturally I said yes. The tea wasn’t as bitter as I expected, and was in fact very flavorful.

After my second cup of tea, we finally stretched our legs (tired from sitting Japanese style) and took pictures.

Morinaga-san even let me wear her special tea ceremony vest so I could pose with it. She explained that in place of the kimono, she had to wear the tea vest, which was built with different pockets to place the cloth and sweets paper in.

wearing tea ceremony vest

 Wearing the ceremonial tea vest

I’ll always be grateful to Maiko, her mom and Morinaga-san for giving me such a wonderful cultural experience.

It was a very beautiful ceremony and I feel very blessed to have been a part of it.

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19 Responses to “Tea Ceremony – Osaka, Japan”

  1. Brinda says:

    I love all these photos. :)

  2. mooderino says:

    Feels like you got to see a side of Japanese culture few visitors would get the chance to see.

    All that kneeling would have been murder on my knees though.

    mood

  3. mlswift says:

    Nutschell, this was freakin’ fantastic! I love the way you took me through it. You must be having the time of your life.

    Beautiful garden, and what a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. This makes me want to move to Japan (but the house has to have a tea room).

    Thanks for taking me around the world. I don’t feel so stuck in the States whenever I come to your site.

  4. M.J. Fifield says:

    Those photos are fantastic. The garden is so, so pretty!

    What an amazing experience.

  5. Susan Fields says:

    How fascinating – thanks so much for sharing this with us!

  6. It’s been so long, I don’t remember the tea ceremony. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Hilary says:

    Hi Nutschell .. what a fabulous experience – and you’ll have a good remembrance here with your descriptions and the photos … I loved reading about it – and you were lucky to have a chance to visit a family with a tea ceremony room, garden etc ..

    Lucky you – cheers Hilary

  8. Karen Strong says:

    Love the beauty of the tea ceremony. Thanks for sharing your photos and experiences of your lovely Japan trip.

  9. Elisa says:

    This is wonderful! What a fantastic trip.

  10. Karen Lange says:

    Enjoyed sharing this adventure with you! Thanks so much! :) Hope you are doing well.

  11. Ate Zamm says:

    What an enriching trip and experience!

  12. Is it wrong that this totally reminds me of The Last Samurai? I love the scenes in that movie where day-to-day activities are done with such precision. Thanks for sharing about your trip!

  13. Nas says:

    You readlly did have an enriching trip and experienced the Japanese culture first hand. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Nas says:

    You really did have an enriching trip and experienced the Japanese culture first hand. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Julie says:

    I enjoyed learning about all the preparation that’s involved in a traditional tea ceremony. Sounds like you had a wonderful time, and thanks for including the lovely photos.

  16. Wonderful photos and description! What a lucky tourist you were!

  17. Nutschell,
    I know I should come over here more often, but I don’t. :( I am fascinated by all aspects of Japanese & Chinese culture, so this was a wonderful treat. Thanks!

  18. deniz says:

    Oh, this looks lovely. I never knew there were sweets included! Wonder if I could compose a haiku on the spot?

  19. Ava Quinn says:

    What a fantastic experience. Morinaga-san’s home is so lovely. And to treat you to a traditional tea ceremony shows her generous spirit.

    And how could you not comment on those beautiful tea bowls?! Just an overwhelming experience. You’re so fortunate to have had it!

    ~Ava, who’s envy is rising with every Japan post 😀

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