(Norsk versjon: Reisebrev fra Tokyo, matcha tea and vintage toys, anyone? Dag 7)
Japanese Tea ceremony
Finally the day arrived that Old Mamasan were to experience a Japanese Tea Ceremony. We had all heard about it as a great Japanese tradition, but we didn’t know a whole lot about it. Well, that was about to change.
The Tea Ceremony needs to be pre-booked, and were not in keeping with our laissez-faire methodology of travel, but we lucked out and they had spaces for us, even though our booking came in late. We made the booking at the Hotel Okura’s webpage, and they promptly responded. Be aware that they do expect a confirmation from you, and we sent ours immediately.
We arrived the hotel soaking wet, because we had (of course) left our umbrellas at our hotel, and we made a couple of wrong turns before we found the place. We were met by a very sweet Japanese lady, who took us to a lobby where we hung our coats and bags before we washed our hands and mouths before entering the Tea Room.
Japanese Tea Ceremony is a cultural activity that involves preparation and serving of matcha tea, a powdered green tea. All steps and movements are rehearsed, and it’s a very elegant Ceremony to watch. When the tea is served to you, there are rules of conduct to observe, like turning the bowls decoration to the side, and as the Kid experienced, what way you turn it is not optional.
A little bit of history:
The first documented Tea Ceremony took place in year 815, when the Buddhist Monk Eichū returned from China and served Sencha (unground Japanese green tea) to Emperor Saga, whom at the time was travelling in Karasaki.
The Monk Eisai introduced tencha tea in the late 1100s. Tencha is when powdered matcha tea is being stirred into hot water. This powder was first used in religious rituals in the Buddhist temples. Tea was associated with luxury, and therefore became a symbol of status among the warrior class.
The aesthetics and the symbolism of the Tea Ceremony developed over time, and the principles of Sabi and Wabi became important. Wabi represents the inner, or spiritual, aspects of life, and Sabi represents the outer, or materialistic, aspects of life. In the 1500s the culture of drinking tea had spread throughout society.
Old Mamasan has, for a long time, wondered about (and been amused by) the various sound effects that you find in Karate. I did try out Karate for some months, and learned that the wheezing and yelling actually do have a purpose (I am the proud owner of a white belt in Karate and green Suspenders in kicking your ass!) The sound effects also have a purpose in Japanese Tea Ceremony, as it is a wordless ritual. You signal that you have finished your tea by sucking air through your molar teeth, kind of the same sound as when you eat a water melon.
To my dismay, I see that all the photos are from the outer tea room. After the tea and the “cake” in the outer room, we were taken into a much smaller room with no furniture. The guide told us that the doorway was low and narrow so that the Samurai had to leave their war attire and weapons on the outside. I might be reading too much into this, but I do love the symbolism: leave your worldly possessions and get ready for meditation and inner peace.
– will absolutely melt your credit card if you are a collector! Here you find Mandarake – the store that has specialized in Comic books, manga and toys. They have huge displays totally filled with old and used toys. If you do not find some of the toys you had as a child – then you were born a grown up! This is truly a great chance to get your hands on some old toys so you can save them for posterity.
Nakano Broadway holds 12 Mandarake stores, each with their own speciality. You could spend an entire vacation here.
Stay tuned for the next installment in this series: Odaiba and Tokyo Bay