Sep 20, 2018
Over the summer, I was invited to Shizuoka to visit a friend from back home. She is married to a Japanese person, and we took a trip to visit her in-laws in the more rural area of the prefecture. They thought it would be a good and rare experience for me to get out of the country and to leave modernism for a while.
Her in-laws’ place really was in the inaka. The 1-story house was surrounded by rice fields, and all the other houses visible were certainly also decades old. We had a peaceful lunch (soumen and homemade tempura) and went out for a walk. After we came back, they led me into an empty Japanese room with tatami. It was the tea room, as I was told.
They thought that it would be peaceful for us to enjoy the zen of the tea ceremony, as if the inaka wasn’t peaceful enough. They also knew that I had never tried it, so it was an opportunity for me to learn. I was rather excited about it.
We sat in the room, my friend’s husband and I facing each other. His mother slowly and silently brought out a tray, and one by one placed the items onto the tatami. A bowl, a can of tea powder, a mixer (?) and a scoop. My apologies for not knowing the proper terms, but it was also my first time seeing them.
My friend then scooped some matcha powder into the bowl and added some hot water and started mixing it. The greenness swirled and swirled into a whirlpool. I could also see that it started to foam up. I was impressed and wanted to react on it, but he had such a serious face, I decided not to break the silence.
Quietly placing it in front of me with two hands, he turned it twice to have it facing me. I had no idea that the bowl had a “front”! He also placed a little manju next to it, and took a bow, signaling that I could go ahead.
I was confused though. Was I supposed to start with the sweet, or the tea? My gestures displayed my confusion, but his parents with a smile (and a bit of a laugh) gestured back that I could start with whichever.
I lifted the bowl of matcha with two hands, thinking that I should start with this because it was hot and fresher. I was expecting something hotter, but it was more of a comforting warmth. It was, however, undoubtedly bitter. So, I took a bite of the manju and that balanced it out quite pleasantly.
They quietly enjoyed my form of enjoying the matcha until it was all gone. I took a bow in return, and placed the bowl back in front of him and turned the “front” back to face him. Not knowing whether I did it properly, his parents clapped and broke the silence, and we went back to chatting.
It was quite a pleasant experience. The tea was bitter, but the formality of the event was refreshing and very different from the busy day I go through. Rather than checking my phone for news or looking up when a new movie comes out, something like this once in a while could really refresh my mind. Perhaps it is the Shizuoka production of green tea, they were quite proud of doing tea ceremony at home, enough to serve it to guests like me.
Oh yes, I was indeed doing seiza the entire time. I had a more difficult time standing up than figuring out how to handle the bowl.
This post is supported by Shizuoka Green Tea Guide, one of City-Cost's Supporters helping City-Cost bloggers to enjoy life in Japan and engage in new experiences.