Aug 14, 2018

An alternative take on Japanese tea ceremony

If you aren't a fan of ASMR then this post may not be for you, however, as an expat with anxiety, ASMR is one of the best ways to relax during a particularly stressful day.

If you don't know what ASMR is, then watch this video, but basically, it is the tingling sensation experienced when listening to something soft spoken or watching someone perform with full purpose and grace.

ASMR wasn't that big of a thing before YouTube and the ability for everyday people to perform and participate in virtual forms of this experience. But before YouTube, I think Japan, in particular, caught on to the benefits of ASMR without really having a scientific name for it. You can see it incorporated into their culture with movies like Okuribito. Scenes of the main character dressing a body with such attention are so calming and relaxing, it is easy to understand why the movie became popular, even overseas.

But looking even further back, more deeply ingrained in Japanese culture is the practice of tea ceremony.

Influenced by Zen Buddhism, the tea ceremony focuses on mindfulness, a form of meditation, as well as appreciating the world around us. This focus is where the ASMR aspect comes in. Watching someone perform the tea ceremony can bring one into an intense state of ASMR. Taking the time to mentally think about the details in a bowl or the texture of a small confectionery, the taste of good quality tea is the key to calming the mind and putting oneself into a position to feel the world around.

Listening to the sounds of the tea being delicately scooped out and transferred to the bowl by the thin spatula, or the hot water being poured over it and then whisked to a lovely green froth can send chills down the spine. This is ASMR. It is rare to be able to experience something like this in our everyday and often hectic lives, but Japan found a way to make it into a tradition. They perfected every aspect of the tea ceremony to be calming and in the end rejuvenating.

But for those not in Japan, how can one recreate this perfected experience of Zen meditation and ASMR in real life? One easy solution would be to take a trip to Shizuoka Japan. There are numerous tea houses all over Japan, but Shizuoka is the place for high quality. They offer tours and you can participate in any number of tea ceremonies while there.

Another option is finding somewhere local to you like a Japanese garden that has tea ceremony. Most major cities have one so just do a quick search online. But the easiest way would be to perform your own tea ceremony. 

All the supplies you need can be bought online and the tea can be bought here

Normally a ceremony is conducted by a master, but a very informal one can still be as meditative as a fully formal one. I highly recommend this decaffinated tea for a more relaxing ceremony. While most matcha teas contain higher amounts of caffeine than a normal cup of tea, the decaf version is great if you wish to remain calm and relaxed (or don't drink caffeine for whatever reason). I personally tried this one and found it tastes great and the decaffeination process doesn't use any chemicals.

An alternative take on Japanese tea ceremony photo

The most basic necessities are the bowl to drink from, the bamboo whisk and spatula to prepare the tea, hot water and the tea itself. The more thought put into selecting the bowl and simplifying the atmosphere where you will have the ceremony will garner a better sense of calm needed for the experience.

Take the time and care to be graceful when setting everything out to start. Be mindful of your movements as you scoop the powdered tea into the bowl. Be gentle as you tap the tea from the spatula into the bowl. The more patience you have and the grace you show, the more the participants will enjoy the ceremony as well.

Whisk the tea slowly at first until the water is incorporated and then more briskly to create the foam needed for that frothy full taste of the tea. Take a slow long deep breath to encourage others to do so as well. You want to be sure all senses are engaged including enjoying the aroma that good tea can offer. Pass the bowl around for each person to taste the tea, pay respect to the chosen bowl and the skill needed to have made it, and appreciate sharing the moment with someone else. These are the most basic aspects of the tea ceremony and all that is necessary to experience it.

If you do have any inclination to experience a true Japanese tea ceremony, I implore you to come visit Japan. Take a retreat from your stress and become part of the moment of it. Perhaps even for those who don't find they experience ASMR with the online community, maybe you will be lucky enough to find the joy of it during a performance of the Japanese tea ceremony.



American step mom with beautiful Brazilian babies. Raising them in Japan. I'm a crafter too