Note from the author: I started preparing this article a couple of months in advance, so now it is not the best time for this topic. But I thought people can always reference back in the future, and also feed the hunger for those — like me — who are suffering from cabin fever!
I have a profound love for Tokyo. Having grown up in Tokyo, I would like to think I understand Tokyo. However, part of its beauty is the sheer amount there is to learn about Tokyo.
The 2020 Michelin guide for Tokyo lists 464 restaurants alone, more than any other city in the world (1) (2). And Shinjuku Golden Gai? It’s hard to imagine that so many bars can fit in six narrow alleys. It’s easy to miss many of the things that help define Tokyo.
The question I ask myself is, “What experience do I want to have?” and this applies as much to tourist sites as it does to eating and drinking spots across the city.
I’ve put together a list of tea spots that are known for several different reasons but will hopefully provide a specific yet special experience that you may be looking for as a tea lover.
1. airKitchen – Tea Ceremony Experiences:
Some enjoy a simple cup of tea in the morning, others look for the perfect sweets to enjoy with their drink. airKitchen offers a unique service combining local Japanese know-how with all kinds of tea ceremonies and classes. Whether you’re looking to partake in a traditional tea ceremony or learn how to make tea sweets, airKitchen offers the connection between you and the locals. The services are relatively inexpensive as well, ranging from 2500 yen to 8800 yen ($25-$88 US dollars). The real benefit is that the choice is yours, as airKitchen offers nothing but choices for whatever experience you’re hoping to attain.
I am friends with Yuta Murase, the owner of AirKitchen, and here are some of the images he provided me to share with you. (Click here to book tea ceremony experiences.)
2. Arigato Food Tours:
Arigato Food Tours provide a number of unique tours throughout Japan. I mentioned them in the Uji Kyoto article I published earlier; yes, they also have great tea tours in Tokyo too!
One particular tour in Tokyo takes you through Yanaka, a traditional Tokyo neighborhood known for its artisan history. 100-year-old shops? Yep. Temples en route? Yep. With a focus on food, you’ll enjoy 10-12 separate dishes culminating with a regional dish from southern Japan. For the tea lovers, the tour concludes with a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. (Click here to book Tokyo tours.)
3. Mayuko’s Little Kitchen:
Mayuko’s Little Kitchen is a cooking service nestled in near Shinjuku Gyoen National Park. If you’re planning on visiting Harajuku, Meiji Shrine, or wandering around Shinjuku, a reservation at her kitchen may fit nicely in your schedule. She offers all kinds of cooking classes including matcha making for tea lovers, Panda Bento Boxes for the creative types, and perhaps a few options you’ve never experienced before! Her services have also been featured on Japanese TV shows. I am personally friends with Mayuko-san, and she is really a nice person! (Click here to book her class.)
4. GEN GEN AN:
Tokyo’s tea offerings aren’t limited to tea ceremonies and classes. Chances are you’ll visit Shibuya if you travel through Tokyo. One tiny yet special shop that may pique your interest is GEN GEN AN. Just north of Shibuya Station, this shop is bringing tea into the 21st century with its style and flavors you may not find anywhere else. Established in 2017, it’s a quintessential Tokyo shop: Small, innovative, yet humble.
To be concluded in 8 Must-See Places in Tokyo for Tea Loves – Part 2
Images provided to the author and used with permission