FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Bucket List: Japanese Tea Ceremony

by Beth Reiber

Jul 1, 2017
July 2017

TAKING PART IN A JAPANESE TEA ceremony might seem like a charming but archaic experience, with little relevance to our busy lives. But like meditation or a walk in the woods, the tea ceremony can clear the mind of the banalities of everyday life and serve as a pathway to spiritual peace. In fact, the Japanese word for the tea ceremony is chado (also cha-no-yu), the Way of Tea, which only hints at the protocols this highly choreographed ritual demands.

I learned this years ago when a fellow guest staying at the same Japanese inn asked whether she could practice her art by serving me tea. The Japanese woman apologized for her ineptitude, explaining she was only an apprentice and had much to learn. When I asked how long she’d been studying, her answer of “only seven years” stunned me. But then I watched how much attention she paid to every minute detail, from how she prepared the matcha green tea to how she served it. I realized that comparing the Japanese tea ceremony to a tea bag in hot water was like equating my haphazard bouquets to, well, ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging.

Tea found its way to Japan via China around the ninth century, when it was used mostly for medicinal and religious purposes, including as a stimulant for Buddhist monks during long sessions of meditation. It spread to the upper class, including feudal lords who embraced the ceremony’s rituals and constructed rustic huts just for the occasion, usually in the midst of a tranquil, landscaped garden. The tea ceremony, therefore, developed utilizing the principles of Zen and the spiritual discipline of the samurai, with an emphasis on simplicity, harmony, hospitality and decorum.

Tea ceremony masters © BETH REIBER

Tea ceremony masters © BETH REIBER

Today, chado follows a strictly prescribed procedure, with every step carrying a profound meaning and following principles laid out mostly by Japan’s most famous tea master, Sen no Rikyū, in the 16th century. Rules dictate the exact positioning of tea utensils; the lighting of the charcoal to warm the water; and each and every movement during the preparation, serving and drinking of tea. Similar to many other disciplines in Japan, the specifics of the ceremony change with the seasons, including the choice of tea bowl, the sweets served to counteract the bitterness of matcha and the simple flower arrangement that decorates the tearoom’s alcove. The tea ceremony even has its own vocabulary, and guests are assigned rankings, sitting order and duties. Because the rules are so intricate, tea schools are popular, not only for their disciplinary training in mental composure but also for their emphasis on etiquette and manners.

Traditionally, a teahouse is modestly small, big enough only for up to five guests. After removing shoes, guests gain access through a door that is so low, they must bow or crawl to enter, considered an expression of humility, with seating on the tatami floor. The host begins the ceremony by cleaning the tea utensils and then combines powdered green tea and hot water in a tea bowl, whisking them into a frothy blend. When the first guest receives tea, he or she says, “Osakini shitsureishimasu” to the next guest waiting in line to receive tea, essentially apologizing for drinking first. The second guest then repeats the phrase to the third guest, and so on down the line. It’s appropriate to admire the tea bowl and compliment the host on the excellent flavor of the tea.

In reality, however, the tea ceremony varies greatly depending on where it’s performed and how much time you can devote. In Tokyo, the easiest way to experience a curtailed version is in a hotel, with the Imperial, Keio Plaza and New Otani hotels offering ceremonies lasting 20 to 30 minutes in traditionally decorated tearooms to hotel guests and non-guests alike.

Matcha tea used for the tea ceremony © GRAFVISION | DREAMSTIME.COM

Matcha tea used for the tea ceremony © GRAFVISION | DREAMSTIME.COM

Nothing, however, beats a tea ceremony with a view of a gorgeous, landscaped garden.

Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo takes advantage of its beautiful garden with ceremonies available to hotel guests in one of its traditional teahouses. Japan’s famous landscaped gardens often have teahouses, set mostly overlooking ponds, where you can sit on tatami, drink the frothy matcha, nibble on a sweet and contemplate the view. There are also organizations around the country offering tea ceremonies and other traditional experiences, such as Tea Ceremony Waraku in Osaka and Joukeian in Kyoto.

Regardless of where you experience the tea ceremony, it’s easy to see why it has long enjoyed cult status as a way to cleanse the mind. Even samurai in the midst of war campaigns used the tea ceremony as spiritual therapy. My most memorable tea ceremony experience came in Kanazawa’s small Gyokusen-en garden, when my hostess, Ms. Nishida-san, an elderly woman dressed elegantly in kimono, said, “The tea ceremony is not a show but rather the chance to share our one moment together.” I knew I would probably never see her again, and for that instant, the peaceful garden and her poignant message made life stand still.

Info to Go

Narita International Airport outside Tokyo and Kansai International Airport serving Osaka and Kyoto are both readily served by limousine bus traveling directly to major hotels and by train. Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, closer and more convenient than Narita, is increasingly serving international flights, including those from the United States.

Introducing

FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

#globility

Insta Feed
Cruising
Oct 15, 2021

Galataport Istanbul Welcomes First Ship

Galataport Istanbul, a new cruise and lifestyle destination on the Bosphorus in Istanbul, welcomed its first ship, SeaDream II, on Oct. 1. Approximately 150 passengers and crew from Bulgaria Varna arrived at 10 a.m. for a two-day homeport operation before continuing to Bulgaria Burgaz.

Greece: Destination Culture

History and culture are etched into every corner of Greece. Beginning with its language, the oldest written language still in existence, and moving from the traces of passing civilizations and religions to pre-historic findings and works from many movements, there’s a wealth of culture to discover on your next trip to Greece.

Events
Oct 14, 2021

Celebrate Halloween at a Medical Labyrinth

The countdown to Halloween weekend is on! Are you are still unsure about plans? Do you go to a house party? Stay in to hand out candy? Try something different this year and join Philadelphia’s  The Mütter Museum at its 6th annual Mischief at The Mütter.

eFlyer Reviews
Oct 13, 2021

Jackson’s Bar & Oven Review

There’s an aspirational rustic chic/farm-to-table restaurant genre often associated with Northern California’s wine country. When you drive down the main street of Napa, Sonoma or any of the other towns, it appears there are as many of them as there are vineyards. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this genre, as the quality of the food is consistent and ambitious chefs earnestly endeavor to elevate home-style dishes to a higher standard.

Greece: Destination Luxury

Since its prestige for attracting the world elite grew in the 1960s, Greece remains the go-to destination for glittering holidays. Each step of the journey is enrobed in luxury, from culinary traditions with the highest standard of execution and name-brand, high-end shopping to first-rate wellness locales and elite accommodations, like 5-star hotels, private villas and yachts.

eFlyer News
Oct 13, 2021

The InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco Collaborates with Porsche

The InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco announced a new amenity for guests in collaboration with Porsche. Porsche electric vehicle charging stations will now be located in the valet area of the hotel’s parking deck, allowing guests and visitors to top off the batteries of electric vehicles while enjoying a cocktail at Top of the Mark, enjoying farm-to-table fare at Nob Hill Club or staying overnight at the property.

Daily
Oct 13, 2021

Grenada Fall and Winter Specials

Head to the Caribbean to escape the cold fall and winter weather. Grenada hotels offer travelers numerous deals, perfect for a fall, winter or holiday getaway.

Register Today for the Most Important Gathering of Business Travel Professionals

The Global Business Travel Association’s (GBTA) Convention 2021 will be unlike any other convention before it, as we come together in person for the first time since the business travel industry drastically changed and look forward to rebuilding and reshaping the future. GBTA Convention 2021 will bring all of us together to learn from experts and each other, in-person at Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, Nov. 17–19. The safety of our attendees is our top priority. View health and safety protocols.

Daily
Oct 12, 2021

6 Reasons to Put Reykjavik, Iceland, on Your Travel List

It’s time to start dreaming of your next trip. Here’s some destination inspiration for you. Take a visual journey through Reykjavik with us.