Aug 21, 2017
Wednesday, August 9th, was one of the hottest days of this year’s summer in Japan. On this day City Cost invited five bloggers on a really special tour, which I was able to join. Here is what we experienced.
The Way to Shizuoka
Our meeting time was in the early morning, around 8:20 am at Tokyo station. Not all of us are living close to it. For me, it meant to get up quickly in the morning for heading to Tokyo inside a crowded commuter train. Luckily I survived the way, but through this I remembered why I wasn’t searching for a job in the Tokyo area.
Two members of the City-Cost team were already waiting for us at the meeting point. We had some time for a nice chat until everyone arrived, mainly exchanging names, countries we are coming from and how much time we spent in Japan so far. We ended up as a nice group which had a lot of topics to talk about during the day.
With the Shinkansen we rushed to Shizuoka station within one hour. It is still hard to believe, that it is so easy to get out of the crowded Tokyo inside a natural green prefecture such Shizuoka. There we were welcomed by nice people from the Chamber of Tea Association of Shizuoka Prefecture and our lovely interpreter from the World Green Tea Association. All together we got into a private bus, got the first bottle of refreshing green tea from Shizuoka prefecture and started our tour to our first destination.
Tea Ceremony Experience
As our first stop we visited Gyokuro no Sato (玉露の里), a place where the tradition and taste of Gyokuro is kept alive. Gyokuro is regarded as the most deluxe type of tea with a sweet and rich flavor. At this place you find a restaurant and shops with many local products just next to the parking space. Crossing the river on the other side of the road you find the tea ceremony house called Hyogetsutei (瓢月亭). The name comes from the Japanese words for gourd and moon, which both are displayed in interesting ways inside the tea room. Wooden gourds are decorated at some corners of the room. The rising moon is displayed on the sliding windows. Already seeing this is worth a visit to the tea room.
But for sure, this was not all. We were able to take part at a traditional tea ceremony. A lovely elderly woman wearing a kimono was leading the ceremony, explaining everything she is using and doing in Japanese. Our interpreter helped us understanding it in English, too. We even were allowed to ask questions and so got a great impression of the manners while a tea ceremony. Did you know you have to turn the tea bowl twice clockwise after receiving it? After drinking you even should wipe the edge of the tea bowl from where you were drinking with your fingers. I learned so much this day and probably will make another article about only this topic.
The Gyokuro was very delicious and I enjoyed the taste of the tea so much. Also the cute wagashi, Japanese styled sweets, which was served with it, was fitting it so well.
A Lunch with hidden Green Tea
After the tea ceremony we moved back to the parking space and entered the restaurant called Chanohana-tei (茶の華亭). A table filled with mouth-watering food was waiting for us, and yes, it was so delicious!
The plates included many things which had a taste of green tea going with it. The green tea soba was only the most obviously one of these. Also the rice had some green tea powder on it and even the tempura had a sense of green tea. There was green tea salt, too! Isn’t it impressive on how many different ways you can use green tea?
Our lunch was very tasty and the stomachs quickly filled. However, at the end there was still space for a small green tea ice which we got as dessert.
Visit to the Houkouen Tea Plantation
We went on and drove to the Houkouen tea plantation (豊好園). Already on the way to the plantation I was impressed by the surrounding. Everything was so green and the green tea plants were shining on the mountains. In the background we even could guess Mount Fuji behind the clouds. Going up all the way to the plantation made the view more spectacular, but see it yourself on my photos.
At Houkouen we were welcomed by Katahira Jiro, the third generation of Japanese tea farmers at this plantation. He told us a lot about the history of Houkouen, their way of planting and the different cultivars they plant. Around twenty different kinds of hand-picked green teas are growing here and in his talking you could feel how much Katahiro loves his work and how much energy he invests in it to build a good future not only for his Houkouen, but also the region around it.
We could try some tea picking and it was an interesting experience, because I did it for the first time. Katahira told us, we can eat the leaves, so I tried. It didn’t taste that bad, but I couldn’t get the real tea flavor now. Noticing, there is still much to do after the leaves are picked up from the mountain plants to become real tea.
Kitahara invited us to his home, there is family prepared different sorts of teas for us. Usucha, Blend, Yumesuruka, Tsuyuhikari and Saeakari are just a few names of the green teas we could try. All had their very own flavor, some were bitter but also some were a bit sweet. After drinking cold brewed tea, we tried brewing our own cup of tea, learning about the different tastes between the first brew and the following ones. Also the time how long you brew the tea can make a difference to the flavor of the tea. This was really interesting and made me want to learn more about it in the future.
On our bus drive back to Shizuoka station we all got a gorgeous present from the Chamber of Tea Association of Shizuoka Prefecture. This included a bottle for green tea, different sorts of teas and even some green tea pudding. I am excited to try them all.
After around one hour taking a look around the Shizuoka station and buying some omiyage, it was time to say goodbye to this new place we could explore that day. We got in the Shinkansen, all were kind of exhausted from the hot weather, but also very happy with all the things we experienced this day.
I want to thank every involved in this tour from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for letting us taking a look into the world of green tea in Shizuoka. I will definitely never forget about this and recommend this area!
This post is a special tea blog report, part of our Shizuoka Green Tea Guide, and a chance through City-Cost for bloggers in Japan to engage in new “Japan” experiences about which to create posts.
German woman who made several trips to Japan, did one year Working Holiday and started living in Japan again since Oct' 2016 with Japanese husband. Loves music, cats, traveling and food.
Also take a look to my German blog and my Youtube Channel (new video every Friday) → https://www.youtube.com/c/YokoLostInJapan