My Japanese Tea Ceremony Experience

At the international house where I stay, they often organize various activities such as Japanese dancing , flower arrangement,  Kanji calligraphy and Tea Ceremonies. They are always on Friday evenings and it is the day we eat out with friends, so I hadn’t attended any of the activities until last week on Friday.

First, allow me to say that the tea served at the ceremonies is just so delicious. It is thick and smooth, it is not the green tea served with meals or the extremely watered down one in the school cafeteria (hey I am not complaining, that particular tea is usually free even in restaurants).

Before the actual event, we received some notes in our mailboxes about the tea ceremonies.. Why the ceremonies? Here’s a whole website dedicated to teaching you about the ceremony.

Everything about the tea ceremony is elaborate. Since it is often held in a tatami (Japanese style floor mat) carpeted room, then no shoes allowed. In fact, in an actual tea ceremony room, you don’t stand at any time. You enter the room on all your knees. Ideally you are dressed up in a kimono (or the other lighter one worn in summer I think, yukata). You open the door elaborately, as we were being shown. You bow to the guest. You enter the room on your knees, slide over to the a particular picture usually placed there for your admiring view, admire the picture, then slide on your knees to your position. Once there, you sit in seiza for the entire ceremony.  It can be very long.

Practicing tea ceremony etiquette at our International House

Practicing tea ceremony etiquette at our International House

Luckily for us, this was a training ceremony. We could stand and stretch and sit in any position once your turn is over.

The host usually prepares the tea, which is the served with okashi, Japanese-style sweets.

Admiring the artwork of the bowl of tea

Admiring the artwork of the bowl of tea

Maintaining seiza throughout the tea ceremony was not easy!

Maintaining seiza throughout the tea ceremony was not easy!

Preparing the tea is something that I would need a year’s practice, everything is so elaborate. We watched in silence as the sensei prepared the tea, and once it is served to you, before you drink it, you say thanks to the host, you turn to the next person and apologize for going before them and finally put the bowl of tea in your hand. You then turn the bowl’s (decorated) face away from you and sip from the un-decorated side. Afterwards, you turn the bowl round and round to admire its pattern before putting it in front of you so you can keep admiring the artwork.

The sensei prepares the tea for us

The sensei prepares the tea for us

The Japanese style sweets were very yummy and they were of different colours and I was told each colour meant something.

Okashi- Japanese sweets

Okashi- Japanese sweets. とてもおいしいですよ!

The sweets:

The sweets in our tea ceremony

The sweets in our tea ceremony

The sweets are given because sometimes the taste of the tea is bitter but in our case, it was not bitter at all. I loved it! I am glad I got a glimpse into a tea ceremony, however until I can maintain seiza for long and gain an appreciation for small, precise movements, I shall not be accepting any invitations soon!

See more pictures on Some of the images in this post were borrowed from the site.

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3 Responses to My Japanese Tea Ceremony Experience

  1. Alex says:

    This will sound strange, but I learnt about the tea ceremony in campus, it was part of the course on oriental architecture. In theory I should know how to design a tea room. in reality, I do not. Ha! The ceremony sounds most excellent, elaborate, but excellent. 🙂

    I trust Japan is treating you well Ms Savvy.


    • savvykenya says:

      You should come to Japan and apply your knowledge Ms Alex.. oriental culture is fascinating. There is so much patience to be learned, especially for a clumsy impatient person like myself!
      Japan is awesome, see evidence on my Instagram (


  2. Pingback: The Kaga Tour | Savvy Kenya In Japan

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