In another culture class we learned about the concept of Wa, the art of Omotenashi (in other words, hospitality). Omotenashi is not just about being hospitable, it’s about going beyond the expectations of the guests to make them feel honored. It’s not about serving drinks when your guests arrive, but serving the drinks they prefer and at the right temperature. Something like that. We were asked to think about how differently a Japanese ryokan treats its guests.
An integral part of hospitality is the tea ceremony. People all over the world drink tea, but in this region, centuries ago, tea is everything. It’s not for mere drinking, but it’s used in many ceremonies by the samurai, from entertainment, meditation to political negotiations. There are certain elaborate ways on how to make and serve the tea, as well as how it should be drunk, too. Serving and drinking tea were something that was formally learned, making schools of tea ceremony, run by grand masters of tea ceremonies (remember Soujiroh from Hana Yori Dango?) powerful institutions
I’ve no idea how tea became so glorified.
Over centuries, they still appreciate tea, but not so much all the customs linked to it. The tea ceremony schools are still around, run by bloodlines of its former grand masters, preserving the tradition. People today (especially Baby Boomer and above) still go for tea ceremonies to celebrate occasions and gatherings, treasuring every meeting.
We experienced it!!!
During class, sensei brought the tools we needed and taught us how to appropriately drink tea. It begins with accepting the ochagashi (sweet) from the hosts and after that accepting the tea, holding the cup and sipping it. Sounds simple, but for every step, there’s something that we had to do, like tilting the cup to one side and saying “osakini” to the person beside us before sipping tea.
The next day, we went to the Mitaka Seishin-tei, a tea ceremony school at Mitaka to experience the real thing ourselves.
Let’s just say that it was even more elaborate than what I’d imagined earlier. So much thought was put into how the preparation. The host had to have a poker face at all time and watch her steps (even literally) while slowly preparing the drink and serving it. It’s almost like she’s not real. The ochagashi served was the most intricate little sweet I’ve ever had and the green tea was so thick and foamy.
For every tea ceremony, there are a couple of people working on it behind the scenes to make sure that the whole operations is smooth.
After we had our tea we learned how to prepare it on our own. My takeaway is that green tea definitely has more kick when it’s thick and whisked. No picture after tea was done because I drank it right away heh.
So here’s the whole of the culture class attendees and the people who were running the show.
Finally, a picture with my culture class sensei, Mina and Motoko at the entrance of the school, the ladies who let us explore the Japanese culture each week and made us appreciate it even more.