Tea Ceremony Experiences in Tokyo

The Japanese tea ceremony is a popular experience for travelers visiting Tokyo. It is a uniquely Japanese tradition that goes back centuries, with its methods shedding insight into Japanese culture and values. Traditionally, Japanese sweets (wagashi) are enjoyed with the green tea, and you’ll find many airKitchen experiences pair the two. Step back from the bustling streets of Tokyo and into a local’s home to experience a more intimate side of Japanese life.

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FAQ About Tea Ceremony Classes in Tokyo

What Does a Tea Ceremony Experience Look Like?

Please note that this is an example, and classes vary by host.

Tea Ceremony Experience

  • Prepare the setting of the tea ceremony

    The setting of the tea ceremony is important, meant to encourage peace and reflection among participants. At its most formal, there are very specific rules of the room set-up and surrounding environment.

  • Clean the tea ceremony tools

    In a tea ceremony, the host will gracefully clean the tools in front of guests. These tools include the tea whisk (chasen), tea scoop (chashaku), and tea bowl (chawan).

  • Mix the matcha

    Matcha powder and hot water are whisked together in the tea bowl until frothy. The powder-water ratio depends on whether you’re preparing thick tea (koicha) or thin tea (usucha).

  • Serve wagashi

    Traditional Japanese confections, wagashi, are often eaten before the green tea is enjoyed. Their sweetness offsets the bitterness of the matcha.

  • Enjoy the green tea

    The bowl is passed around among guests until everyone has drank and tasted the tea.

Let's Learn About Tea Ceremony Before Joining a Tea Ceremony Experience in Tokyo!

Tea Ceremony Basics

  • What is the purpose of the tea ceremony?

    The tea ceremony is about much more than just enjoying tea. It is a spiritual practice, intended to offer a sense of peace and harmony beyond our busy daily lives. It is guided by the uniquely Japanese concept of “wabi-sabi”, which celebrates the simplicity and perfection of imperfection.

  • What is the history of the tea ceremony?

    Tea was first introduced in Japan from China in the 9th century. Though tea was initially prepared using tea leaves, powdered green tea (matcha) was introduced at the end of the 12th century. While at first the tea ceremony was a religious practice performed by Buddhist monks, it became a symbol of upper Japanese society. Over time, the tea ceremony spread from the court and samurai classes to the common people.

  • How is the tea ceremony related to Zen Buddhism?

    The Japanese tea ceremony is heavily influenced by Zen Buddhism. Japanese Buddhist monks were the first to introduce tea from China, and later the method of brewing tea from powdered matcha. Zen Buddhist monks saw an opportunity to practice mindfulness during the preparation and consumption of tea, shaping the tea ceremony into a spiritual practice. Wabi-cha is a Japanese tea ceremony style specifically related to Zen Buddhist principles, focused on simplicity and mindfulness.

  • What happens during the tea ceremony?

    During the tea ceremony, powdered green tea (matcha) is prepared by the host for guests following specific techniques and etiquette. Traditional Japanese confections, wagashi, are usually served alongside the bitter tea. Longer tea ceremonies include a kaiseki meal and the brewing of two types of green tea.

  • How long is the tea ceremony?

    The length of the tea ceremony can vary, depending on the type and degree of formality. A chaji, the most formal tea ceremony, can last up to four hours – it often includes a full-course kaiseki meal. On the other hand, a chaikai is generally less rigorous and can take as little as 45 minutes to an hour.

  • What is the etiquette of the tea ceremony?

    The tea ceremony is meant to bring about feelings of peace and serenity, thus it’s important to be respectful of your host, other guests, and the tearoom throughout the ritual. Wear conservative clothes, remove your shoes before entering the tearoom, let your host seat you, and eat and drink everything served to you. Your host will guide you through the ritual, so don’t worry too much! Just be genuine and sincere.

  • What clothes are worn during the tea ceremony?

    Traditionally, simple kimonos are worn during the tea ceremony. Flashy designs are avoided in consistency with the concept of “wabi-sabi” described above. Men wear hakama, another form of traditional Japanese attire. If you are wearing Western clothing to a tea ceremony, it’s best to keep it conservative and not too casual.

  • How is the Japanese tea ceremony related to weddings?

    Sometimes, tea ceremonies are performed as part of a traditional Japanese wedding celebration. They are often small, seated ceremonies shared among family members. Oaths are exchanged and tea is enjoyed in a peaceful atmosphere.

  • How is the tea ceremony related to geisha?

    Traditionally, geisha performed the tea ceremony as part of the five-year apprenticeship – a maiko is an apprentice geisha. They often lead public tea ceremonies on special occasions, especially during cherry blossom season under sakura trees.

  • How is the tea ceremony related to samurai?

    Historically, the tea ceremony was reserved for the Japanese elite – the court and samurai classes. The samurai were a powerful class at the top of the social hierarchy, and thus historically had the leisure and luxury for the tea ceremony. It wasn’t until later that the ritual trickled down and became a part of common Japanese society.

Japanese Tea Ceremony Schools (Sansenke)

  • Urasenke tea ceremony school

    The Urasenke school is the largest of the three tea ceremony schools founded by the descendants of Sen no Rikyu, a 16th-century tea master. This school was built by Sen Sotan, Rikyu’s grandson, and prioritizes guest enjoyment of the tea ceremony. Therefore, the Urasenke school is more open to allowing guests to sit on stools for their comfort verus on the floor, as is traditional.

  • Omotesenke tea ceremony school

    The Omotesenke school focuses on simplicity, adopting simple tea utensils and procedures. The tea is whisked less than the Urasenke school, making it less frothy. In addition, a whisk made from smoked bamboo (susudake) is used as opposed to an untreated bamboo whisk used by the Urasenke school.

  • Mushanokojisenke tea ceremony school

    The smallest of the three schools is the Mushanokojisenke school, or Mushakojisenke school, founded by Sen no Rikyu’s great-grandson Ichio Soushu. Like the Omotesenke school, the tea is not as foamy. There are other subtle differences between the three schools when it comes to the movements, seating style, and attire of the tea ceremony.

Types of Tea Ceremonies

  • Chaji Tea Ceremony

    The chaji is the most formal version of the Japanese tea ceremony, lasting up to four hours. It typically includes an extravagant kaiseki meal and the enjoyment of traditional Japanese confections before both thick and thin green tea is served.

  • Chaikai Tea Ceremony

    Though still guided by strict etiquette and guidelines, the chaikai is more informal tea ceremony gathering. Wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) are still typically enjoyed along with thin matcha tea.

Types of Tea Prepared in a Tea Ceremony

  • Koicha (Thick Green Tea)

    Koicha is a thick green tea that uses three times the amount of matcha as usucha. After being whisked, it is served to guests in a single bowl.

  • Usucha (Thin Green Tea)

    Usucha tea is a thinner and frotheir green tea, prepared using a higher water to matcha ratio. Traditionally, it is served in separate bowls to participants in the tea ceremony following the koicha.

Tea Ceremony Tools

  • Chawan (Tea Bowl)

    The chawan is the tea bowl that is used to prepare and drink the tea.

  • Chasen (Tea Whisk)

    One of the most memorable and important tools used in the tea ceremony is the chasen, or tea whisk, made of bamboo.

  • Chashaku (Tea Ladle)

    This is a ladle, traditionally made of bamboo, that is used to scoop the matcha into the tea bowl.

  • Chakin (Tea Cloth)

    The chakin is a cloth used to wipe and keep the tea bowl clean during the ceremony.

  • Natsume (Tea Container)

    The natsume is the container that contains the green tea powder.

Other Popular Tea Ceremony Experiences in Tokyo

  • Maikoya Tea Ceremony - Tokyo

    Located in Shinjuku, Maikoya Tea Ceremony offers an array of tea ceremony offerings in Tokyo. You can choose between group and private classes and whether or not you want to rent a kimono as part of your experience. The tea ceremony classes are offered in English.

  • Kyoto-Kan Tea Ceremony

    The name might be confusing, but Kyoto-Kan Tea Ceremony is actually located in Tokyo in Tokyo Station. It is an information center built by Kyoto City, and offers 20-minute tea ceremonies that visitors can observe on the weekends for a small fee.

  • Happo-en Tokyo Tea Ceremony

    Happo-en is a tea house in Tokyo where you can experience the Japanese tea ceremony surrounded by a traditional Japanese garden. There are options to experience the tea ceremony both on and off tatami mats, and strolling around the garden afterwards in recommended.

  • Chazen Tea Ceremony Tokyo

    You can experience the Chazen tea ceremony in Ginza, Tokyo. It is a small tea house that offers introductory tea ceremony classes. You both observe the tea ceremony and learn how to make your own matcha in this experience.

You Can Join Tea Ceremony Classes Not Just in Tokyo

Why Taking a Tea Ceremony Class in Tokyo is a Must-Do

Participate in the Important Japanese Ritual of Tea Ceremony

The practices and customs of the Japanese tea ceremony shed insight into Japanese history and values. Heavily influenced by Zen Buddhism, elements of the tea ceremony emphasize balance, harmony, and simplicity. From the set-up of the room, to the ingredients and utensils used, to the movements of the server – each part of the tea ceremony carries specific intent and importance, and reveal much about Japanese culture. Through participating in a Japanese tea ceremony in Tokyo, you’ll have the opportunity to experience a ritual that has been practiced in Japan since the late 16th century.

Visit a Tokyo Local’s Home and Immerse Yourself in Japanese Culture

Tea ceremonies are a popular cultural activity for tourists visiting Japan. While there are several places to enjoy tea ceremonies in Tokyo, experiencing a tea ceremony through airKitchen offers a uniquely personal cultural exchange experience. Tea ceremonies can often feel stiffy and tied up by formality due to the rigid rules that are followed, making it difficult to relax and fully enjoy the experience. In contrast, an airKitchen tea ceremony class in Tokyo takes place in a more comfortable and intimate environment: a host’s home. You’ll still learn about the steps and history of the Japanese tea ceremony, while also having the opportunity to get to know your host and experience Japanese life more closely.

Relax and Enjoy a Cup of Green Tea in Tokyo!

Green tea, or matcha, is a traditional Japanese drink that is prepared and enjoyed in the Japanese tea ceremony. It is often enjoyed paired with wagashi, Japanese traditional sweets, and you’ll find that many airKitchen Japanese tea ceremony experiences in Tokyo combine the tea ceremony with other cooking opportunities – like wagashi making! Whether you’re interested in preparing other dishes during your airKitchen class or just participating in a Japanese tea ceremony, enjoying a cup of green tea with your host is an excellent way to round out your experience in Tokyo.