The Japanese tea ceremony is an elegant, enigmatic ritual, simultaneously full of international influence and truly authentic to the culture of Japan. The tea ceremony is an extension of Zen Buddhism, it combines spirituality with culinary artistry and is a tradition that has been followed for more than a millennium. Meditative, focused and it’s an experience everyone should try at least once.
The origins of the tea ceremony in Japan date back to the ninth century. Legend says that Chinese Chan monks would sip tea as a way to stay conscious through long meditation sessions. When Japanese Tea ceremony enthusiasts traveled to China to study this technique, they brought back with them Chinese tea leaves and a new technique for brewing and enjoying tea.
Zen monk Murata Shuko (1423-1502) is considered the godfather of modern Japanese practice. It was Shuko who labeled the ceremony wabi-cha, an offshoot of wabi-sabi, the Japanese philosophy of finding beauty in fleetingness and imperfection.
As time went on, tea ceremonies became popular within Japanese high society. Having access to space, resources, and time to perform, such ceremonies were considered a type of status symbol. Today, however, the ceremony is practiced throughout the country by people of all social statuses, backgrounds, and religious beliefs.
Known in Japanese as chadougu, the tools for tea ceremonies are both practical necessities and physical embodiments of the Zen philosophy. Traditional ceremony cups and bowls are typically made from organic earthenware, beautiful with their unique imperfections.
The chawan (tea bowls), is the most common tea ceremony tool. They’re selected according to the season, and most tea masters have a range of chawan to choose from. Deep bowls keep the tea warm in cooler weather, while shallow ones are used for warmer months.
Some additional tools you’ll see are natsume (tea caddies), which store the tea before use, a cha shaku (ladle) for scooping the tea into each bowl, and the cha sen (tea whisk). There’s also the fukusa, a specific cloth used by the ceremony master to clean the tools, and cha kin, a separate cloth used for wiping down the bowls.
Throughout the year there are plenty of tea ceremonies to experience in Tokyo. There are casual pop-in options, ultra-formal tea ceremonies called chaji, which include kaiseki, a traditional Japanese multi-course meal, and ceremonies that sit somewhere in the middle.
Indulging on a tea ceremony in Tokyo with a kimono is an absolute must, especially for first-time visitors. With its nostalgic atmosphere and fascinating traditions, a tea ceremony in Tokyo is like taking a step back to Japan’s ancient past from a futuristic era. Moreover, it gives you a deep and beautiful insight into the beguiling Japanese Culture.
They don’t call Maikoya as the ultimate spot for a Tea ceremony in Tokyo for nothing. Praised endlessly by Tripadvisor users, it is the only spot in the downtown area where you can watch a Tea ceremony in Tokyo while wearing a kimono. Furthermore, Maikoya lets you create your own tea using a traditional Japanese tea whisk.
Not only is it the most famous house for a tea ceremony in Tokyo, but it’s also beloved throughout the country. In fact, it offers tea ceremony experiences in Kobe, Osaka ad Kyoto.
At Maikoya, guests have the option to do a traditional kimono with help from the staff. Furthermore, it lets you learn the ritual’s history and culture, and actually create your own Japanese tea led and guided by the host. For those who can’t sit on the floor, the teahouse also allows guests to sit on the chair.
Location-wise, Maikoya is more convenient as compared to the other tea houses in Tokyo. After all, it’s less than 12 minutes away from the JR Shinjuku station and about three to four minutes from the Higashi Shinjuku station.
As for Maikoya’s staff, they are pretty fluent in English and are so friendly. They will greet you with enthusiasm, the moment you arrive at the entrance. And, they will make sure you’re extremely comfortable during the entire time.
If you opt to wear a kimono, the staff will thoroughly explain the kimono’s cultural aspects, like why it’s only one-sized and why it has sleeves.
One of the things that make Maikoya standout is that guests can literally walk outside wearing the kimonos and snap tons of pictures after the tea ceremony in Tokyo. And, there are plenty of cool traditional photo backgrounds within the facility.
The tea house accepts private session requests, walk-ins, and same-day reservations. Guests without online reservations, however, may have to wait a bit.
Address: 565-4 Nakanocho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8042, Japan (map)
Hours: Monday – Sunday 9AM–7PM
2. Hisui Tokyo
For culture vultures, no trip to Japan’s dynamic capital is complete without a visit to Hisui Tokyo. Known as a cultural school, Hisui teaches a variety of Japanese crafts and martial arts to visitors and locals alike. In addition, the school has an online store for battojutsu. Of course, it also offers a timeless tea ceremony in Tokyo. Although a bit expensive, their tea ceremony experience is great. The price for a tea ceremony in Tokyo at Hisui is JPY 10,000.
Address: 4 Chome-3-13 Ginza, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0061, Japan (map)
Hours: 11:00 AM to 08:30 PM from Thursdays to Tuesdays (closed on Wednesdays)
Phone: +81 3-3562-7575
While it doesn’t technically offer tea ceremonies, it nonetheless is an excellent place to sample Japanese sweets and tea. Here, you’ll be given a bowl of tea as well as a piece of paper on how to make it. Set wondrously in Hamarikyu Gardens, Nakajima is essentially a café, meaning there’s no traditional tea room with tea ceremonies and alcove.
On the bright side, the gardens also serve fresh seasonal Japanese sweets and fresh matcha. We definitely recommend this place for travelers who want to sample Japanese cold or hot tea beverages after exploring a traditional tea house.
To make things even better, the gardens are a sight to bid, especially during the seasonal plum blossoms and cherry blossoms. And, did we mention that this spacious garden is historic and once was a property of a samurai lord?
Nakajima No Ochaya in Hamarikyu Gardens
Address: Japan, 〒104-0046 Tokyo, 中央区Hamarikyuteien, １−1, 浜離宮恩賜庭園 (map)
Hours: 09:00 AM to 04:30 PM daily
Phone: +81 3-3541-0200
Hisui and Chazen are similar in a lot of ways. Both offer an English tea ceremony in Tokyo at a quintessential tatami room, both are in Ginza, both venues are on the 5th floor and both are relatively expensive. The difference is that Chazen is managed by an experienced lady tea host while Hisuian is run by a gentleman who’s an expert in martial arts.
Chazen is situated next to the well-known Kabukiza kabuki theater, making the location even more interesting. If you’re in Ginza and looking to take a break from its restless energy, you definitely need a little tea ceremony in Tokyo at this venue.
Chazen Tea Ceremony
Address: Japan, 〒104-0061 Tokyo, Chuo City, 12, 銀座4丁目12-17銀座石川ビル5Ｆ 銀座（ginza） 駅 徒歩3分 東京 駅 (Tokyo station) (map)
Hours: 09:00 AM to 04:30 PM daily
Shizu Kokoro is not far from Nadeshiko and is quite close to Asakusa. Unlike other venues on this list, Shizu Kokoro focuses solely on providing a tea ceremony in Tokyo. So, there’s no kimono or any other activities within the facility. The venue is managed by Mrs. Haneishi, a tea master who studied the art and runs a 90-minute tea ceremony class in Tokyo. As an added bonus, the facility has a gift shop where you can score some cool Japanese crafts.
Shizu Kokoro Tea Ceremony
Address: 1 Chome-9-8 Nishiasakusa, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0035, Japan (map)
Hours: 10:00 AM to 06:00 PM From Tuesdays to Saturdays (Closed on Sundays and Mondays)
Phone: +81 3-5830-3449
No list of the best venues for tea tasting in Tokyo is complete without the inclusion of Happoen. Located near Sangakuji, this Tokyo spot offers tea tasting every day. There are tea ceremonies, obviously, but you need to book a minimum of two guests at least two months in advance. Even though this tea ceremony in Tokyo is available on weekdays only, the venue has a relaxing atmosphere and a gorgeous garden.
Happoen Tea Ceremony
Address: 1 Chome-1-1 Shirokanedai, Minato City, Tokyo 108-0071, Japan (map)
Hours: 10:00 AM to 08:30 PM from Mondays to Fridays. 09:00 AM to 08:30 PM on weekends
Phone: +81 3-3443-3111
Nadeshiko, in a traditional sense, refers to the elegant women of Japan. The venue is in Asakusa and near the celebrated oldest temple in the city, Sensoji temple, which draws more than three million visitors a year. Even though it’s on the ground floor, the venue looks a bit more like a kimono rental shop instead of a tea house. Actually, their tea ceremony in Tokyo is a bonus or an additional service they provide. The place, by the way, is just a 5-minute stroll from the Asakusa train station and is closed during winter.
Nadeshiko Tea Ceremony in Tokyo
Address: Japan, 〒111-0032 Tokyo, Taito City, Asakusa, 2 Chome−7−24 2階 ぱんだカフェ茶の花 (map)
Hours: Permanently closed
Phone: +81 3-3842-8756
airKitchen is a popular booking platform-app where guests can find and book cooking classes and food experiences run by locals. If what you’re after in a tea ceremony experience is something a little more intimate, then booking a tea ceremony experience on airKitchen could be the way to go.
If you search through the website, you’ll discover a range of different tea ceremony experiences typically hosted by locals in their own homes.
While the experience may be a lot different from the more traditional ceremonies out there, it’s a rare opportunity to see inside the homes and daily lives of Tokyo locals. it’s also a great opportunity for cultural exchange.
You’ll find of all the options online, many of airKitchen’s offered tea experiences are combined with cooking style classes based around the ceremony experience. One such example is learning how to make Japanese dishes such as wagashi the Japanese sweets traditionally enjoyed with matcha.
airKitchen Tea Ceremonies
Address: 45, Suginami City, Tokyo 168-0063, Japan (map)
Hours: Open 24 hours
Kantoku-tei is a cozy tea house by the entrance of Koishikawa Korakuen Park in Bunkyo Ward. The house offers free classes organized by the Sekishuu-ryuu Rinsenji-ha, a division of the Sekishu tea ceremony school, and offers information in Japanese and English.
Here the school is known for teaching a ceremony style known as buke-sado, which originated in the Edo period and was performed by samurai families.
During the session, guests are taught the steps of the ceremony, including how to drink the matcha gracefully, and when to appreciate the design on the bowl. The class comes with wagashi, Japanese sweets too. At 45 minutes long, it’s perfect for a quick exploration of the culture.
Kantoku-tei Tea Ceremonies
Address: 1 Chome-6-6 Koraku, Bunkyo City, Tokyo 112-0004, Japan (map)
Hours: Monday – Sunday 10AM–4PM
For something a little different, pay a visit to tea master Shinya Sakurai, the man behind Souen Sakurai. This is part tea ceremony experience, put a luxurious modern tea house and cafe. With its rustic communal-style seating and elegantly minimalist and modern interior, Souen Sakurai is the age-old tradition of tea ceremonies brought to the modern-day. It is worth noting, though, that this is not a strictly traditional experience, so if you want the classic image of the ceremony, perhaps book a class, then visit this place afterward to really appreciate the culture.
Souen Sakurai 櫻井焙茶研究所 Tea Ceremony
Address: スパイラルビル 5F, 5 Chome-6-23 Minamiaoyama, Minato City, Tokyo 107-0062, Japan (map)
Hours: Monday – Friday 11AM–10PM; Saturday – Sunday 11AM–8PM
Are there available tea ceremonies in Japanese gardens?
There are a few Tokyo tea ceremony gardens available. But, most of them don’t host sessions for tea ceremony in Tokyo every day. Most of these tea ceremonies in Tokyo are private sessions conducted in English. Not to mention, they usually first-timers.
Shinjuku’s Maikoya has private ceremonies in tea gardens for honeymooners, team-building events, and group activities if you request it via email.
How long does it usually last?
A casual tea ceremony style mostly lasts about 45 minutes. A formal ceremony with some kaiseki meal can last for four hours.
What’s the main goal of a tea ceremony in Tokyo or other places in Japan?
It’s to create a bond between the guest and host as well as to have a peaceful mind amid the bustling daily lives.
How do I act when having a tea ceremony in Tokyo?
Remain silent, forget every materialistic thought you have and don’t check your watch or phone. Drink around three to four sips of green tea and slurp on the final sip to show that it’s delicious and you’ve literally enjoyed it. And, don’t forget to heed the instructions from your host. While wearing a kimono is essential, travelers are excused. Additionally, you may sit on a tatami room chair if you’re unable to sit on your knees.
Maikoya in Shinjuku
All in all, all tea rooms in Tokyo have their pros and cons. Each one of them offers a unique experience that will surely spice up your Tokyo travel itinerary. But, if you have to pick one, opt for Maikoya in Shinjuku. From its proficient English-speaking staff to its delicious fresh matcha, it has all the ingredients for a memorable tea ceremony in Tokyo, Japan.
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