Monday, March 30, 2015

A Stroll in the Happoen garden and tea ceremony,Tokyo

Ever since my tickets were booked to Tokyo, two things were on priority in my ‘to do list’: Japanese tea ceremony and Kimono wearing experience. Read Asakusa and Kimono wearing experinece
Happoen garden is a beautiful Japanese garden in Tokyo which has a  traditional tea ceremony house. Everything in Japan has a unique feature, whether it is gardens or toilets or escalators it has a strong Japanese impressions characterized by its small size and brevity. I think they believe in the principle of   ‘ small is beautiful’.

Waterbody in Happoen garen
A stream running through the green garden, a small water falls, a traditional tea house, restaurant,  old Bonsai trees, beautifully dressed up Japanese brides busy in posing for photo shoots, garden full of vibrations of celebrations yet maintaining silence…. That was Happoen garden nestled amid the skyscrapers. It has a banquet hall and there were couple of weddings ceremonies. Bride and the family in gorgeous kimonos were  adding to the beauty of the garden.

Japanese bride

Women in Kimonos
I walked through the Bonsai garden. Some of these miniature trees were more than 500 years of age.  Somehow I can’t appreciate Bonsai. For me it always seems that Bonsai is curbing the natural growth. 

500 year old Bonsai tree
Few meters away from where I stood  I could see an old house right on the bank of a pristine lake. The view was soothing and enchanting. Perfect tranquil setting for a tea ceremony.

Winter trees
I spent some time next to the lake which was reflecting the trees around. The autumn trees  were awaiting  for spring to create the  magic of  cherry blooms. I wonder how beautifully this place  might transform during cherry blossom. I could see skyscrapers right across the garden. Yet it was like 100 miles away from the city.

When I reached  the traditional tea ceremony house, it was full. People were waiting outside. When it was our turn we entered the house which could accommodate 10-12 people. There were two women in the kimonos welcoming us with a bow. They offered seat. One of the women was introduced herself as the host or tea master who will lead the tea ceremony. Then for the next 10-15 minutes I witnessed  the lengthy procedure of tea making ceremony which looked like a well-choreographed performance.

Tea master
The host started the rituals which  involved many steps. I don’t know how will they remember those small but several hand movements. The other lady in the house offered us sweets. Typical of Japanese size they were tiny pieces of sweets. 
Sweets served in the tea ceremony. Look at the size
It was not supposed to be eaten until host asks us to eat.Then she  continued with the rituals. After cleaning the bowl she asked us to eat the sweet. Then she prayed, performed some purification rituals. Then she added two spoons of green tea into the bowl and poured water. Then she whisked with the same gracefulness. Finally after praying she offered this to the guest seated in her right side corner. The guest is supposed to be the chief guest. Then they offered tea to all of us. Before drinking we were directed to turn the tea cup anticlockwise thrice and also were advised to repeat the same after finishing the tea. This symbolizes   showing respect to the host. Japanese green tea is literally green in colour and made of fine   green tea powder. Tea mster asked us ‘ how was the tea’?  We answered ‘ it was good’ as advised by our guide even though it tasted highly bitter.

Green tea
The whole procedure of cleaning the utensils, purifying , praying  was full of graceful movements. Every movement like  the way  they hold the ladle or pour the hot water was showing gratitude to the natural elements. They call it as Chadou. The literal meaning is ‘the way of tea’ .
 The whole  process is thanking the supreme power which in their case the elements and transferring the gift of the supreme to the guests. I am not sure if I understood it correctly.

All about tea house
I was told there are many schools of tea ceremonies. In the tea ceremony I attended the tea master performed the ritual in a standing position. There are tea ceremonies where they perform it sitting on the ground. May be next time I try a different method.

The ceremony was over after the final silent bow from the host. She stood outside the house. I took leave from the tea house.

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  1. Superb blog!!! Thanks for taking us through the tea ceremony and the culture. Enjoyed the journey ,,,,,

  2. The blog post is as serene as the pictures. The first picture is beyond words! Lovely post.

    1. Thanks Shilpi for your kind words.. Yes those trees and reflections were creating out of the world ambiance

  3. I love your photos! I have nominated your blog for a Liebster Award. It's a way for bloggers to build community and promote each other. If you would like to participate, check out my post here

    I can't wait to read more about your journeys. Thanks.

  4. I am visiting Tokyo next week, and your blog has made me want to visit this garden. I couldn't find a place online where I can book tickets for the tea ceremony though, any suggestions how I should go about getting tickets?