For centuries the art of performing a tea ceremony have been studied and performed in Japan. The art encompasses not just the actions or utensils used but also a spiritual exchange between the host and guests as well as the atmosphere surrounding it. For Japan the tea ceremony has become one of its most famous traditional activities and powdered green tea, or matcha in Japanese, remains the most popular drink today. To share in the experience of a tea ceremony I was invited to Tea Ceremony Koto which breaths a traditional atmosphere to complete one’s emersion into the ceremony.
Your host, Rie Kuranaka
Let me first introduce Tea Ceremony Koto’s delightful host and instructor miss Rie Kuranaka. With her long experience and training under tea ceremony masters at one of Japan’s most renowned schools, Urasenke in Kyoto where she is also a qualified lecturer, she still continues to devote herself to perfecting her art. The precious attention to the changing seasons is a lesson she holds dear and is reflected throughout her tea ceremony which makes a session at Tea Ceremony Koto a very unique experience in its own right.
A mesmerizing experience in the making
Upon entering you will immediately notice the other two arts Rie-san has mastered over the years, the wearing of a kimono and ikebana. A mannequin near the entrance displays a fine example of kimono worn by young girls and once you start admiring it Rie-san’s skill truly shines through the beautifully tied obi around its back. In the adjacent room your attention is instantly draw by the vibrant colors of the long-sleeved kimono worn by young girls in January.
Although we could admire the artifacts in the entrance for ages, let us not forget about the tea ceremony. At the start of the session Rie-san first introduces guests to the spirit of the tea ceremony as an art form as well as the various utensils used and how to properly drink from a bowl. Everything in the room is placed with great care and design to create an atmosphere that changes with the seasons. The fire pot with hot water, for example, is placed in the floor during winter where it is closest to the guests to warm themselves while in other seasons it is placed on top of a tray on the tatami floor.
As Rie-san performs her ceremony you feel drawn to the sheer elegance and care in which she undertakes every movement. It is this care that makes the Japanese tea ceremony unique as the taste of the tea is not only influenced by the type of tea used but also the temperature of the water, the quantity of tea powder and the manner in which it is whisked. Through her years of experience Rie-san presents you with an exquisite bowl of tea with such a refined taste and texture that it is not easily forgotten.
During the final part of the session it is time for the guests to try preparing matcha tea themselves. After witnessing Rie-san perform it herself just a moment ago this might seems daunting, but with her clear instructions and patience to guide you, you too are able to prepare a nice bowl of green tea yourself. To enhance the delightful tastes of your self-prepared matcha tea it is accompanied by traditional Japanese sweets from some of the most renowned shops in Kyoto. When you finish your tea, you will take a moment to admire the artwork on the bowl. Like the room itself, the bowls too change by the season to serve both an aesthetics and a practical functions in preserving the tea’s flavor and temperature. While visiting in a group you will notice every person has a different bowl spurring which spurs one’s curiosity to admire these as well. It can truly be said that the outmost care for details at Tea Ceremony Koto makes every piece present to be considered as a piece of art to touch and admire.
Experience your own tea ceremony at Koto
Tea Ceremony Koto is located just around the corner of the gates to Kyoto’s famous Kinkakuji-temple with its golden pavilion making it a perfect stop before or after visiting the temple. At Tea Ceremony Koto you have the choice of three different plans of 45 minutes sessions to suit you and your companions. The shared session for 7 people at most is ideal for couples or friends who wish to enjoy two kinds of matcha with dried traditional Japanese sweets. If you are coming to Kyoto for a special occasion, a birthday or honeymoon for example, a private session serving additional fresh sweets will certainly make your visit a cherished memory. Larger groups of over 5 people can also enjoy a private session serving the two kinds of matcha and fresh sweets. Please note that sessions should be booked a day in advance or in the morning by phone or e-mail. For more information please check here.
Rests to say that through Rie-san’s experience and sheer attention to detail accompanied by the traditional atmosphere the home breathes makes attending the tea ceremony at Koto one of the most mesmerizing experiences in Kyoto.
Tea Ceremony Koto
Address: 〒603-8377 37 Nishi-Goshonouchi-cho Kinugasa Kita-ku Kyoto city