The ultimate Japanese Tea Ceremony for the modern traveler
Updated: Feb 18
Japan is a country filled with countless new and exotic experiences, running the gamut from touristy to traditional. Few cultural experiences are quite as typically Japanese though as the quintessential Tea Ceremony.
And so for most visitors to Japan, ourselves enthusiastically included, it is a must on the to-do list.
Which tea ceremony to choose though is another matter - a quick online search will show that they are a-dime-a-dozen, many in Kyoto, most of them of the traditional variety.
Julien had come across a different option for us though, one recommended by Wallpaper Magazine. A more modern ceremony set in stylish surroundings, on a high floor overlooking Tokyo's Harajuku district, near Omotesando station.
And so we arrived one morning at Sakurai Tea House.
Created by tea master Shinya Sakurai, who has spent 14 years refining his craft, the exquisite interior design space in which the tea experience takes place is certainly worthy of a design magazine.
We had opted for one of the multi-course tea tasting menus, at a price of around 5,000 Yen. And so, over the next hour and a half or so we are served a variety of teas, from the most delicate of greens to a frothy punchy matcha, each one brewed from only the highest quality green tea leaves.
The teas also each come accompanied by edible delicacies like smoky pickled vegetables, or the characteristically Japanese wagashi sweets, made from bean paste, rice flour and chestnuts.
At one stage we are even offered the brewed tea leaves themselves to eat, served in a mild vinaigrette sauce. These are not the tea leaves you have in the cupboard at home, it is fast becoming clear!
Every bit of the ceremony is visually engaging, in this haven dedicated to the art of tea. From the beautifully crafted teaware and utensils to the gorgeously presented accompaniments.
Each gesture of our tea master is serene and purposefully considered.
The combined effect is one of focused intent, and an atmosphere that is soothingly meditative and zen-like.
For anyone considering a tea experience that embodies the age-old tradition of tea making, while at the same time one that has been given a contemporary makeover, this is surely it -
A beguiling Japanese Tea Ceremony that masterfully captures the zeitgeist of a modern Japan.
Since the Sakurai website is all in Japanese, we recommend asking your local accommodation to make a reservation for you, or do as we did and book via email.
Next read: Our top tip for Travelers to Japan