Kyoto is a Japanese city with a rich history and deep food culture. But for travelers yearning to learn about the culture of Japanese aesthetics and feel the historical magic of Kyoto firsthand, one type of hands-on experience comes to mind: a traditional Kyoto tea ceremony. So, if you're searching for the best tea ceremony in Kyoto, look no further! First, let's take a deeper look at the fascinating history and rituals of the Japanese tea ceremony. Then, get ready to sip some matcha tea, because we have 5 Kyoto tea ceremony experiences that will knock your geta off.
The Japanese tea ceremony, or "Way of Tea," is the cultural practice of preparing and appreciating matcha: the refined, powdered green tea. This quiet, beautiful ritual embodies 16th century tea master Sen Rikyu's four principles of tea ceremonies: harmony, respect, purity, and silence (wa-kei-sei-jaku). As the Japanese expression goes, each tea ceremony is a "perfect encounter," or "once in a lifetime experience" (ichi-go ichi-e), a unique meeting of souls that must be cherished.
Formal tea ceremonies can last hours, but are often abbreviated today, and typically take place in a tatami room or tea house. Different schools of tea follow slightly different practices, but tea ceremonies generally involve making precise hand movements and appreciating every aspect of the experience, right down to the intricacies of the dishware chosen for the guest.
Here are 5 Kyoto tea ceremony experiences that we highly recommend for lovers of Japanese traditional culture.
On your next Japan trip, why not stop by tea master Randy Channell Soei's tea shop? Located in the longest covered arcade in Japan, this beautifully renovated townhouse, or machiya, will enchant you as you learn the "way of tea."
Soei-sensei, the highest ranking non-Japanese teacher of the tea ceremony in Japan, practices ryurei, a style of tea used during Kyoto's World Fair in 1872 to entertain foreign dignitaries. He's been teaching for 20 years and has published a book on the subject, Book of Chanoyu...Tea the Master Key to Japanese Culture, so you know you're learning from an expert!
During this Tea Ceremony in a Kyoto Machiya, you'll spend 1.5 hours learning the parts of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, observing proper etiquette, and trying your hand at making the best cup of Kyoto tea. If you're fascinated by the thought of learning the unique ryurei dignitary style of tea ceremony from a Western tea master using tables and chairs, this experience is undeniably for you!
Have you ever wished to step into the secretive world of geisha and maiko in Japan? During this exclusive experience, you'll learn all there is to know about Kyoto geisha and tea culture from a group of maiko, or young geisha apprentices. These enchanting maiko traditionally entertain guests by playing shamisen and dancing with incredible grace. During this experience, they'll demonstrate how to stir up the perfect matcha tea and give you a chance to try. Then, watch in amazement as they put on a beautiful traditional maiko performance right before your eyes!
This one-hour Kyoto Tea Ceremony with Maiko at Jinmatsuan, a center for tourists to experience traditional Japanese arts, includes Japanese sweets and coffee/tea, as well as the tea ceremony itself. Take a chance on this experience if you're eager to combine your tea ceremony with the rare intrigue of a stunning maiko performance!
If you're wondering what to eat in Kyoto, why not try some yummy wasanbon wagashi sweets to complement your bitter green tea? In this Kyoto tea ceremony experience, you'll be especially culturally immersed in the tea ceremony process. Enjoy wearing a beautiful authentic Japanese kimono, provided by the instructors, and taking pictures as keepsakes of this priceless cultural encounter!
During this hour-long family-friendly Kyoto Tea Ceremony with Sweets, you'll don a gorgeous kimono and learn from a licensed tea ceremony instructor. The unique, melt-in-your-mouth sweets from Shikoku (gluten-free and vegan) are also included! This ceremony is perfectly suited for those who love trying unique sweets and taking once-in-a-lifetime snapshots in traditional Japanese dress.
While you're in Kyoto, stop by the famous geisha district of Gion to enjoy an immersive tea ceremony at En, a traditional Japanese tea house. "En" means "connection" and "circle" and symbolizes peacefulness and relationships, as well as Buddhism's highest truth of enlightenment. This tea house strives to celebrate all those values and more!
On this journey into tea ceremony culture, immerse yourself in the way of tea in picturesque Gion and, after learning from an expert, prepare the drink yourself using a traditional Japanese tea set!
This 45-minute Traditional Tea Ceremony at a Kyoto Tea House is broken up into thirds: 15 minutes of introduction, 15 minutes of tea serving, and 15 minutes to prepare your own tea. For travelers who want to experience a quicker tea ceremony and witness the unparalleled architecture and ambiance of Kyoto's ancient Gion district, this ceremony hits the spot!
Are you a green tea aficionado itching to explore a special corner of Kyoto that's known for its rich tea culture? Then this All About Japanese Tea: Tour of Uji, Kyoto is definitely for you! Embark on a five-hour journey through the gorgeous historical district of Uji, making stops frequently to duck into a thousand-year-old tea shop, visit a tea farmer's shop, experience an authentic Japanese tea ceremony, and even pay respects at one of Japan's oldest shrines.
For lunch, unwind and enjoy chasoba (green tea soba noodles) at a famous Kyoto tea house. The unique point of this tour is its eclecticism; perfect for those who want to explore tranquil Uji, absorb tea history from countless fascinating locations, and appreciate Japanese green tea in every way possible in one day!
For any traveler looking for deeply satisfying things to do in Kyoto, there's no better choice than a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Japanese tea culture reflects so much of Japan's rich history that you'll come away from it with a more nuanced understanding of the beautiful country, guaranteed. Plus, professionally-made Japanese matcha green tea and sweets are incredibly tasty! Book one of these Kyoto tea ceremony experiences today and make your time in the ancient city of Kyoto both enriching and delicious!
Looking for more things to do in Japan's former capital? Check out our post about the best food tours in Kyoto!