Sunday, December 04, 2005

Japan: Tokyo 16 - Tea ceremony and Hotel Otani

I went to visit a tea ceremony at the Hotel New Otani. This hotel is fabulous! It is in the Asakasa area. It was only 2 stops away from my hotel. Using a combination of 3 maps I found it....even though it is a 3 min. walk from the station. It is in a super nice area. My Japanese teacher told me Princess Diana had stayed at this hotel. Hotel Otani is huge - made up of 3 buildings and includes tons of high end shopping: Salvatore Ferragamo, Christion Dior, Versace and the likes. Lots of restaurants too. There was an outside Japanese garden in the middle of the hotel buildings.

Tea ceremony:
The tea ceremony is located on the 7th floor. It is $10.00 for a 25 min. performance, cup of hot green tea and a sweet red bean dessert. I was the only person in there at the time, so I able to enjoy it by myself. The tea woman spoke a few words of English so was not able to explain alot. First I took my shoes off of course and sat down on a straw mat. She placed the red bean sweet in front of me and told me to eat it while she prepped. Her actions are deliberate and commanding. First she picks up each tool she is going to use and shows them in a ceremonious way (reminiscent of Karate Kid when Daniel-san went to Okinawa). Then she took a ceremic bowl, opened the lid to a pot in the ground and placed the lid on top of a glass stand. The pot in the ground is very hot and already contains hot water. It sits on charcoals underneath. Then she scoops the hot water into the bowl and uses a bamboo whisk to whisk it around. She then pours this into a bowl on the side. The purpose was to clean the bowl.

Next she takes a container of green tea powder and puts a little into the bowl. She opens another container full of fresh cold water and takes a scoop, dumps it into the hot pot and scoops out a mix of hot and cold water into the bowl. Then she whisks it into a frothy bowl of green tea. She places the bowl towards me on the floor, then she scoots up to it and continues doing that til the bowl is right in front of me.

She presents me the tea by turning it twice clockwise and I take it w/my right hand and place it on top of my left hand and turn it twice clockwise. If the tea is good, I am supposed to drink it in one gulp. When done, I am to wipe the bowl where my mouth was, turn it twice counter clockwise and put it on the floor. She wraps up the ceremony by putting everything back and showing the tools off once more. Despite seeing it in movies and reading about it, it is very cool to experience yourself.