Taking tea the traditional Japanese way

The faint sound of a wooden door sliding open is my signal to proceed. I shuffle into the bright sunshine, my gait restricted by my tightly wrapped kimono, and push open the gate.

Behind lies an enchanted world, utterly different to the teeming streets of Tokyo that are just outside. The plot of land is no bigger than a garden patio but each element – tree, rock, water, moss – has been placed so thoughtfully that the space feels twice the size. I crouch next to the well to wash my hands and mouth, and out of the corner of my eye notice the shokyaku, or the main guest, slip through a tiny square doorway and disappear into the chashitsu, tea room.

The path guides me to that same minute entrance. I squeeze myself into the darkened room, swivel around to place my straw sandals to the side of the entrance and leave the door open for the following guest.

I am in. My eyes adjust to the muted light, and I kneel and bow in turn to the calligraphy on the wall, the Edo-period tea caddy, and the kettle and hearth in an otherwise empty room of tatami straw mats. I finally take my place next to the shokyaku to wait for the two remaining guests to appear.

During the Edo period (1603-1868), the tea ceremony provided respite for the samurai warrior. It was the only space they entered unarmed. Laying their katana swords at the gate, through the tea ceremony ritual they allayed worries of impending war and death.

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