My friend Simon came to Japan last year for his honeymoon. He’s given me a few tips and bits of advice before, and he got in touch on facebook to let me know of another suggestion his wife had reminded him of: a class that introduces English speakers to Japanese tea ceremonies.
This was right as I was making plans for my second week in Kyoto, so it worked out well. I booked myself in for a three o’clock appointment on Tuesday.
The day rolled around and I spent a little longer than anticipated looking at monkey and slightly too long eating my lunch. My phone then ran out of my battery just before I found the shop using google maps, and I walked past it a couple of times.
This all meant that I arrived a couple of minutes late and, as the doors had already been closed, I couldn’t attend the class. Despite the fact that this was entirely my own stupid fault, the lady I spoke to was very apologetic and helpful, offering to move me to the 4 o’clock session.
I thanked her and, now having about 45 minutes to spare, used the time to plan a route to my next destination so I wouldn’t be late to that and visit a nearby temple.
I returned nice and early and sat patiently outised the shop. As the previous lesson thanked the staff and filed out, I saw and was informed that a TV camera crew were here recording the ceremony and interviewing for television. This was an unexpected twist, but I’m always game for a laugh so I went along with it.
Another unexpected twist was that nobody else came for the 4pm session, so I had a class all to myself. I was taught the etiquette and history of Japanese tea ceremonies, enjoyed drinking and also making matcha green tea, with the classy ceremonial equipment.
After the ceremony, I asked and answered questions all about tea drinking both in Japan and back home in the UK. I did my best to be honest and play along to what they were going for. I think I equated the difference between everyday green tea and the ceremonial version to the difference between a quick cup of PG Tips and breaking out the nice tea pot and fine china to drink Earl Grey with a pinky finger poking out. I guess I wasn’t quite talking bollocks?
Somehow, what should have been a simple little touristy lesson became me being treated to private tutelage and ceremony, feeling a little awkward as I was bowed to and treated like a prince, then becoming the spokesman for the tea drinking habits of my entire nation.
They took my details, including my email address, when I signed the paperwork after the interview so I’m hopeful they’ll let me know if and when it airs. In Japan a month and I’m already gonna be on TV!