It was our first morning in Japan. We woke up early and decided to venture out in search of coffee. It was an unusually cold morning in Ginza, the sun shone bright on the empty streets in one of the busiest shopping districts in Tokyo. We quickly realized nothing in the Ginza district opened until 10am. Undeterred, we happily wandered the alley ways, passing countless shuttered store fronts, it felt strangely familiar yet we were standing half a world away from everything we knew. As we made our way down the streets, a beautiful Japanese woman flawlessly adorned in a traditional kimono, approached. With a warm smile and in perfect English she asked where we were from and if we were interested in a Japanese Tea Ceremony. Introductions soon followed and as our conversation carried on the woman, Rie, told us that we looked like movie stars and asked if we would come to her tea house for a photo shoot. As a thank you for our participation in the photo shoot Rie mentioned the Tea Ceremony would be complimentary. At first, we were hesitant, it just looked and sounded too good to be true, especially not knowing the specific details surrounding the shoot. She gently encouraged us to talk among ourselves and to meet her at noon if we decided this was something we’d like to do. We then both continued on our separate ways.
Once out of the cold, coffee in hand, we talked about our chance encounter with Rie, on our first morning none the less, and thought “what the hell…lets do it!”.
We arrived at Chazen around noon, astonished to discover it was directly next door to the famous Kabuki Theater! As we approached the entryway at Chazen, a man, also dressed in a kimono, welcomed us by saying “you must be San Francisco.” We chuckled and said, yes! We were welcomed in, and to our surprise there was a photographer along with a journalist and our new friend Rie, all waiting for us to arrive. It was then we learned the photo shoot was to be featured in Japan Airlines Magazine.
Before the ceremony we watched a short video on the history and tradition of Chado, followed by the ceremony itself. We learned how to grind green tea leaves into a rich green matcha powder, followed by a hand washing ceremony, signifying the purifying of the mind. We were then invited into the Tea Room. One by one we removed our shoes and crawled through a small, and I do mean small, sliding door at the side of the tea room. Once we were all inside our host Rie entered the tea room and welcomed us all. She offered us traditional Japanese confections and guided each of us on the proper etiquette of drinking matcha. We watched as she whisked matcha powder and steaming hot water together to make a delicious cup of tea for each of us. We all sat quietly enjoying our tea, and as we each finished our cup, Rie called us over to teach us how to make our own cup. Taking the time to understand the tradition of chado was such a great way to start out our trip and immerse ourselves in traditional Japanese culture.
After a few months home, we all received an email from Rie asking for our address and just a few days later, we received a special delivery from Japan. It was the May issue of Japan Airline Magazine, and inside, a picture of the four of us sipping matcha in a tea room in Tokyo, Japan. I’d have to say that experience has to be one of my most favorite travel memories of all time. Published in a magazine, with three of the most amazing people I know.
(yes, this is another blog post using a collection of our iPhone photos. I promise to blog better photos soon. LOL) xx
Chazen Tea House// http://www.chazen-co.jp