Well of course, it’s a tea ceremony rather than a tea party as we know it, but it is definitely a giant one – over 8,000 people attended last year’s Great Tea Ceremony in Tokyo’s Edo-period Hama Rikyu Gardens, both locals and visitors alike keen to experience one of Japan’s most enduring cultural highlights.
This year there are going to be two Grand Tea Ceremonies, both in historic and evocative settings within the city centre.
The first takes place on Saturday and Sunday the 1st and 2nd October in the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum where buildings from the Meiji era – houses and shops from town and country – have been recreated and filled with period furniture. Entrance to the museum is free during the tea ceremony which runs between 10am and 3.30pm. There are indoor (cha-seki) and outdoor (nodate) ceremonies, the formal indoor ones cost 700 yen and have to be reserved by post in advance, casual outdoor and beginners indoor cost 300 yen and tickets can be bought on the spot – they all take place in Japanese but it’s still an intriguing experience.
The second is on Saturday and Sunday the 22nd and 23rd of October in Hama Rikyu Gardens which used to be the private duck-hunting park of a 17th century shogun and are now a romantic retreat complete with pavilions and ponds, and at this time of year the autumn colours will be beautiful. The tea ceremonies take place between 9.30am and 3.30pm and admission to the gardens is 300 yen, 150 yen for those aged over 65, free for children. Here there are again indoor and outdoor ceremonies at 300 yen for beginners and casual, and 700 and 1000 yen for formal indoor ceremonies, plus an outdoor class with an explanation in English, also at 300 yen.
Guests at both these Great Tea Ceremonies are perfectly placed to enjoy the traditional ritual of chanoyu in atmospheric settings, and to learn some of the elaborate etiquette involved and its significance – tea ceremonies embody hospitality, gratitude and courtesy and are as significant in modern life as they were in bygone days. More details on the tea ceremonies which are part of the Tokyo Traditional Arts Programme can be found by email Tara@ReadyClickAndGo.com
ReadyClickAndGo offers visitors to Tokyo the opportunity to attend one of the Grand Tea Ceremonies as part of their private guided tours of the city, prices for a half-day sightseeing tour by public transport are from £165 per person based on 2 people. ReadyClickAndGo arranges customised private day trips and sightseeing tours throughout Japan, China, Vietnam, Singapore and India as well as in Eastern Europe, full details available from www.ReadyClickAndGo.com