Attending a Tea Ceremony
Known in Japanese as sado ('the way of the tea'), a tea ceremony is a ritualistic way of preparing and drinking tea heavily influenced by Zen Buddhism. Dating back as early as the 12th century, the ceremonial tradition is highly choreographed to channel all attention into the act whilst following four principals: harmony, respect, purity and tranquillity. It's an increasingly popular past-time in Japan with tea ceremonies held in traditional tea houses, cultural community centers and private houses across the country. Preparation styles vary slightly with the seasons, time of day and venue but will follow a general pattern - sweets are presented to guests on their arrival, the tea utensils are brought into the tatami-matted room, the host is seated, the utensils individually cleaned, the serving bowl warmed, and hot water added to the powdered tea, whisked and served to the guests.
Kyoto is where the tea ceremony was first born and is therefore one of the best places to experience one. Three of Japan's main schools are based in Kyoto and the southern district of Uji is an important tea-growing region. Visitors can enjoy a hands-on tea ceremony, hosted by a kimono-wearing teacher who will guide you through the preparation and drinking of the tea in a beautiful tea house. Good options include Okitsu Club, an exquisite Japanese villa where participants can really immerse themselves in the refinement of the ceremony, or Camilla, a traditional house where guests are encouraged to relax and enjoy the pleasure of tea.