As someone who enjoys tea, and learning about the traditions and history behind the beverage, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to attend the Tokyo Grand Tea Ceremony 2018 (東京大茶会). This year’s schedule spans across two weekends – the first was the weekend of October 13 and 14 at the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum (江戸東京たてもの園), and another event is happening this weekend at the Hamarikyu Gardens.
Here is a recap of the events to expect if you attend the event next year!
Beginner’s tea ceremony
If you’ve never attended a tea ceremony before, a beginner’s lesson like the one at the Tokyo Grand Tea Ceremony is extremely helpful. You’re guided through the process step by step, learning about everything from how to perfectly whisk your own cup of matcha, to the way you should pick up your tea cup and to what you should do before you take a sip.
The Beginner’s Tea Ceremony was held at the Farmhouse of the Yoshino Family at the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Museum – a beautiful, traditional building complete with a thatched roof similar to what you’d see at places like the iconic Shirakawa-go.
Tea ceremony in English
This ceremony is fantastic if your first language is English and you don’t speak much (if any) Japanese. The entire ceremony was explained from start to finish by an English translator, so that you wouldn’t misunderstand any part of the process. Headsets were even available so that you could hear the English translator if you were further back in the room – which I found to be a very thoughtful touch. Tea was served at this event with a beautiful chrysanthemum inspired wagashi, which is Japan’s national flower and a prominent one that you’ll see in the autumnal months.
Outdoor tea ceremony
Despite the weather being a little dreary on the day of the Tokyo Grand Tea Ceremony, the outdoor event was still beautiful – even if it did have to be covered by a tarpaulin to prevent guests from being rain-soaked!
This particular event was held in Japanese, but English translation was available for non-Japanese speaking attendees. The audience learned about the seasonality of tea ceremonies – everything from the designs of the cups to the room placement of the water boiler changes depending on the time of year a tea ceremony takes place. Since we’re in the autumn months now, many of the cups presented to guests had maple leaf motifs on them. The water boiler was placed in the corner of the makeshift outdoor “room”, but we were told that in winter, for instance, that boiler takes pride of place right in the center, so that all the tea ceremony guests can enjoy its warmth.
Indoor tea ceremony
This particular tea ceremony was the most formal – so much so that I didn’t feel comfortable taking pictures – and it required special reservations beforehand. I’m glad that this was our last event of the day, as my friend and I took all we had learned from the previous tea ceremonies we attended and put it into practice! It was a special, almost spiritual experience, and really showed the significance of tea ceremonies in the Japanese culture.
Even though this year’s Tokyo Grand Tea Ceremony event at the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum has passed, it’s a fascinating spot to visit year round. If you want an opportunity to get a look up close at various styles of Japanese architecture, it’s worth checking out.
Tokyo Grand Tea Ceremony Information
Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum Information
Address: 3-7-1 Sakurachō, Koganei-shi, Tokyo 184-0005
Access: The closest station to Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum is Musashi Koganei Station on the JR Chuo Line.