Someone once said ‘to experience the tea ceremony is to understand the essence of Japanese hospitality'. There is a lot to unpack in these words, and I am no pundit on this renowned Japanese ritual. What I can say is that the tea ceremony experience offered by Chazen, in the heart of Tokyo’s Ginza, is a chance to enjoy the real thing, and gather your own insights into the deeper significance of this traditional art.
Sharing Japanese hospitality with the world
Chazen is the creation of Rie Takeda, a tea ceremony master (and green tea expert) who has traveled the world to teach the spirit of the tea ceremony, and spread the joy and camaraderie of her vocation. The Chazen experience in Ginza is one manifestation of this same mission, but unlike her improvised tea services abroad - often performed al fresco, under a red umbrella - Chazen in Ginza is true to the original form, much as it was conceived by the movement’s founder, Sen Rikyu, over 400 years ago.
A modest space
Don’t allow Chazen’s location to affect your expectations. In the heart of Tokyo, on the fourth floor of a nondescript building next to the bustling Kabuki Theater, Chazen’s premises seem to be naught but a narrow waiting room just steps from the door of the rickety lift. Patience: in a moment a soft-spoken woman in a beautiful kimono appears to show you through the nijiriguchi (crawl hatch door) into a genuine chashitsu (tea room) of tatami mats and authentic seasonal décor (calligraphy scroll and ikebana flower arrangement), as well as the other essential accouterments – hibachi (brazier), chagama (cast iron tea kettle), and chadana (tea shelf for various vessels and utensils).
A relaxing and memorable experience
Conversation during the tea ceremony might be on any topic, but Ms. Tanaka used the opportunity to educate us on the various meanings and purposes of the tradition. Much to her credit, I found the entire experience to be both relaxing and memorable. The delicious maccha (powdered green tea) and chagashi (seasonal tea sweets) were delectable, but almost more than the pleasures of the palate, it was Ms. Tanaka herself, her movements so precise, graceful and unhurried, who made the interlude unforgettable, and reminded me that, yes, there is something very special about Japanese hospitality.