The top 15 places to experience a matcha tea ceremony in Japan can be hard to find. With many adulterated ceremony’s catered to tourists. In today’s HealthyTOKYO article we will be taking a look at 15 places around Japan where you can enjoy the most traditional matcha tea ceremony for yourself. The Japanese tea ceremony, known as “sado” or “ochanoyu”, dates back over 1000 years. Steeped in tradition and known for its precise form and execution, the mysticism of the tea ceremony draws attention from people all over the world. Truly the tea ceremony offers a look into the highly stylized world of traditional Japan preserved up to today, and at the heart of it all lies “matcha”, the special green tea powder used in the ceremony.
- What is the matcha tea ceremony?
While the tea ceremony can trace its origins back to China in the 8th
century, the Japanese tea ceremony, as we know it today, was developed in the 16th
century in Kyoto. Sen no Rikyu is the man credited for taking the tea ceremony, which was at the time only for the upper class, and making it more accessible to the common people. A special kind of green tea powder called matcha is used for the ceremony while traditional Japanese sweets called okashi are also provided to add contrast to the strong matcha flavor.
- Is there a difference between traditional matcha tea ceremony and what they show tourists?
A traditional Japanese tea ceremony is performed entirely in Japanese in a small room or tea house called a “chashitu”. It is an intimate affair with usually no more than a handful of participants. In fact, there are even some parts of the ceremony in which the guest of honor is required to participate by exchanging set dialog with the host in order to express gratitude, move the ceremony forward, and signify when the guests have finished drinking their tea.
It seems that most ceremonies offered towards tourists try to maintain as much authenticity as possible in regards to aesthetic and performance by the host, but will not require you to memorize any Japanese in order to participate. In addition, the ceremonies will probably not take place in a chashitu, but rather in a teahouse or traditional style room. Finally, some tea ceremonies geared towards tourists may allow you to mix the matcha yourself, instead of by the host.
- 5 places to experience a matcha tea ceremony in Tokyo
To start things off, let’s take a look at 5 select locations in Tokyo where you can dip your toes into the world of tea ceremonies.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Rakuu-Tei
In this charming teahouse you can enjoy a simple cup of matcha or rent the venue for a formal tea ceremony. Located in the heart of Tokyo, Shinjuku Gyoen’s setting goes perfectly with enjoying a cup of tea.
Hamarikyu Garden’s Nakajima No Ochaya Tea House
Nakajima No Ochaya Tea House offers a unique tea experience, as it is seemingly floating on a tidal pond in the center of Hamarikyu Garden. The teahouse does not offer any traditional ceremony, but you can sit on the tatami mat floor and enjoy the captivating view with your matcha and wagashi.
Nakajima no Ochaya
Jidaiya’s provides a plethora of authentic Japanese cultural experiences, one of which is a matcha tea ceremony. Watch, learn, and try for yourself in this immersive tea ceremony workshop.
Also located in Asakusa, Nadeshiko offers a joint kimono and tea ceremony experience, or just the tea ceremony by itself. They provide accommodation for those who have trouble sitting on the floor for long periods of time.
Found in the stylish Ginza area of Tokyo right next to the Kabukiza theater, Chazen allows you a moment of repose from the bustling metropolitan streets. They offer a variety of matcha tea ceremony experiences and are certainly worth checking out.
- 5 places to experience a matcha tea ceremony in Kyoto
Next, lets move over to West Japan. As the proverbial “Heartland” of tea ceremonies, there may be no better place to experience “the way of tea” than in Kyoto. As mentioned above, Kyoto holds a special place in the world of tea ceremonies, as it was here that modern style developed into what we practice today. Check out the following popular tea ceremonies below.
Tea Ceremony Koto
Having received a certification of excellence from Tripadvisor, Koto is sure not to disappoint. They are dedicated to introducing tea ceremonies to people visiting Japan.
Tea Ceremony Nagomi
An option open for all types of people, Nagomi accommodates for the elderly and those who are not able to sit on the floor for long periods of time. You can choose your own tea bowl and mix the matcha yourself.
En, Tea Ceremony Experience
Conveniently located in the Gion area of Kyoto, En offers a hands-on introduction to tea ceremonies with both private and group options.
Tea Ceremony Camellia
A great all-English opportunity to learn deeply about tea ceremonies, also offering group and private courses.
Tea Room Juan
Juan presents the only chashitsu open to the public in Kyoto. Choose this options if you want the truly traditional “sado” experience.
- 5 places to experience a matcha tea ceremony outside Tokyo and Kyoto
If you are in Japan and find yourself far from Tokyo or Kyoto but would still like to experience a tea ceremony, check out the following 5 locations around Japan where you can get your matcha fix.
Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture
Located only about 1 hour away from Tokyo by train, Kamakura is a well-known and historically significant city in Kanagawa prefecture. Visit the giant Buddha statue to get into a Zen state of mind before taking part in a tea ceremony at Engakuji Temple for only 1000JPY!
Sapporo, Hokkaido Prefecture
Sapporo is the capital of Japan’s most northern prefecture, and as such it’s no surprise you can take part in a matcha tea ceremony there. They also offer the option to wear a kimono to heighten the experience.
Izumi, Kagoshima Prefecture
Kagoshima is located on the island of Kyushu, Japan’s most southwestern main island. Here you can take part in a joint experience of both wearing a kimono and joining in on a matcha tea ceremony. The experience is exclusive to women (sorry boys), and is sure to become a spectacular memory for any female participant.
Naha ,Okinawa Prefecture
The beautiful Okinawan islands are home to a culture different from the rest of Japan, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still try out a matcha tea ceremony there.
Okinawa also has their very own tea ceremony unique from the rest of Japan that serves a frothy tea called Bukubukucha.
Narita, Chiba Prefecture
If you ran out of time while traveling around Japan and didn’t get a chance to take part in a tea ceremony, have no fear as there is still one option left for you. Conveniently located close to the airport, a free tea ceremony experience is available at The Narita Tourist Center of Narita City.
Hopefully this list has shed some light on what kind of matcha tea ceremony experiences are available to you throughout Japan. Even if you are not able to make it to Japan in the near future, you can still enjoy the heartwarming taste of matcha green tea by ordering it through HealthyTOKYO’s shop.
If you have any questions about matcha, or anything, please make use of the site chat feature located on the bottom right of the page.
Before you go, just remember:
- The matcha tea ceremony was born Kyoto and continues to thrive to this day
- While Kyoto could be considered the Mecca of tea ceremonies, you can find them all over Japan
- A joint Kimono wearing experience is common, but not necessary
- You can purchase your own ceremonial grade matcha right here on HealthyTOKYO.com
- Become a master amongst your friends, share what you learnt and let them experience a matcha tea ceremony back home. Find the tools you need here.
History of the Japanese Tea Ceremony
Expressions at the Tea Ceremony
Experiencing a Japanese Tea Ceremony in Tokyo
The Best Tea Houses for Tea Ceremonies in Tokyo