It was my sister’s first trip to Kyoto and I thought it’d be interesting to go for a traditional experience, and attending a tea ceremony was the first that came to mind!
Upon researching, there are many places in Kyoto that hold tea ceremonies, but Chashitsu Ju-an was by far the most authentic-looking. Another big factor was that the ceremonies are conducted entirely in English, as my sister can’t speak Japanese.
I easily made reservations on the website and Kirihata-san promptly replied, complete with her contact information and detailed directions to the tea room. She also sent me a reminder email the day before the ceremony, which would be helpful for tourists who lose track of time on their holidays!
I scheduled for the tea ceremony to be on the same day as our kimono rental (see where to rent kimonos in Kyoto here) so that we can attend the ceremony in kimonos! :D
On the actual day, we found our way to the tea room pretty easily thanks to the directions. Although the tea room is near Kyoto station, it is tucked away in a small street, quiet and a good distance from the hustle and bustle of the city’s traffic.
There are 2 main parts to the ceremony:
- Kirihata-san explained the origins and history of the tea ceremony, then proceeded to do a demonstration
- Each of the participants took turns to make and drink our own tea
One word to describe the entire ceremony: tranquil.
From the way Kirihata-san spoke – calming, and without the slightest hint of haste – to her quiet, graceful movements, it’s like everything slowed down in the tea room. In that moment, I felt like my entire world quietened as my mind and soul are in a state of serenity and we are suspended in that moment in time.
Kirihata-san the proceeded to elegantly prepared a bowl of tea and invited us to take a sip, just like how it is done traditionally. I am eternally thankful we sat the closest to her, because the bowl was to be sipped from, wiped with a small piece of paper each of us were given, and then passed on to the next person. And this is totally inappropriate to include, since this post is all about serenity and peacefulness, but I will probably spazz out and die if I had to drink from a bowl 4 other strangers drank from.
She didn’t do the full tea ceremony though, which included additional rounds of communal tea-drinking, as the later rounds of tea are extremely concentrated and bitter.
It was time to make our own tea and each of us did it while the rest watched.
Kirihata-san encouraged us to take photos, so we did!
First up, my sister:
Eh. Not very elegant, that face and hand position… but it is the only photo I have of Kirihata-san, so I’m including it.
A better one of my sister:
After drinking our own tea, we were given a traditional Japanese sweet.
I had my aligners on but didn’t want to waste it so I ate it… with my aligners on o_O. Weirdest feeling ever.
The session lasted about 50 minutes and in parting, Kirihata-san took a photo of all the participants, testament to 一期一会 (ichigo ichie) – meaning a chance encounter that is unique because it will never come to pass again.
After we left, we wandered to the garden beside the tea room. Apparently, having a garden is one of the conditions a tea room must fulfill to be considered a proper venue for tea ceremonies.
It was definitely a unique experience and I’m really glad we went for it!
If you’re looking to attend a tea ceremony in Kyoto, I highly recommend Ju-an! Kirihata-san even sent us our participation certificates a couple of weeks later via email!
One last nice photo of my sister:
TEA CEREMONY JU-AN
2,000 yen per person
Nearest station: Kyoto, ~5 mins walk