In Okabe, we visited legendary Gyokuro tea maker Tohei Maejima where we learned the effects of shading on the leaves. He welcomed us to his home where we had the opportunity to learn more from the master, taste and then eat some of his prized Gyokuro green tea. In Shizuoka city we attended the bustling tea auction to see how unrefined tea is traded. We tasted some of the teas and then had a special chance to visit a tea refinery for a delicious lesson in blending different cultivars. Side-by-side we could easily taste the difference.
No visit to Japan would be complete without at least trying to catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji. On our way to Tokyo we stopped at Hongu Shrine where we got a good view of the peak, in fact better than at the new Fuji Visitor center. Arriving in the nation’s capital, we enjoyed numerous special meals. Guided by friend and fellow teaophile Chitose Sashida, we enjoyed another culinary treat with tea lunch at Cha Cha No Ma. The peace and tranquility of the Happoen garden was refreshing, especially while enjoying another tea ceremony.
One of the wagashi he made
The group with the wagashi master in the old tea house
Tea ceremonies always include some kind of wagashi or sweet. We were very honored to have a master wagashi maker give us a hands-one lesson in making a few of the traditional edible art confections. Continuing with our training we spent one morning studying the complexities of the tea ceremony and Cha Do (the way of tea) with Fukaumi Sensei at the Koomon school. Each of us received instruction in the practice and mindfulness of Cha No Yuu and we made Mat Cha for one another. After sitting on the tatami mats, it was good to stretch our legs and visit the frenetic Tsukiji fish market. Wandering the stalls we could see all manner of things that (I think) were edible. Of course we had our fill of the freshest sushi in town at one of the famous restaurants. Extra wasabi please!
Learning tea ceremony
Other stops included the Asasuka shrine and Nakamise street market, the restaurant supply street (I could have spent days there), the Ginza (we all eventually ended up at Mariage Frere tea room) all topped off by a visit to the Imperial Palace plaza where we could get a glimpse of the castle. All of the World Tea Tours I’ve led over the years have been unique and though I’ve led many trips in Japan, I think this one included some of the most memorable experiences. I can’t wait to return to Japan and am greedily hungry for more adventures.
Imperial Palace Plaza