Kimono Tea Ceremony with Maikoya Teahouse – Kyoto, Japan

Kimono Tea Ceremony with Maikoya Teahouse – Kyoto, Japan

June 2023

Kimono Tea Ceremony with Maikoya Teahouse – Kyoto, Japan

One experience we could not leave Japan without doing is a traditional tea ceremony which is today considered an art form. Japan has a long history of tea ceremony dating back over 400 years ago and Kyoto is home to several tea ceremony schools so it made sense to have this experience while we were in Kyoto. While I am not a tea drinker and not a fan of bitter drinks like matcha, I still wanted to participate in the experience. Who knows, maybe I will leave enjoying it. 

Maikoya’s Teahouse is highly recommended for their tea ceremony experience so it was easy to book our spot ahead of time. One thing I thought was very cool is that you are dressed in a traditional kimono for the tea ceremony and can even keep for some photos. You can even book a tea ceremony with a Geisha! 

We checked in with the front desk and were instructed to go across the street to get outfitted – men on one side and women on the other. We were immediately given socks to leave our shoes off and given bins to store all of our belongings in that we did not want to take to the tea ceremony. While we looked less than presentable due to all the rain, the staff did a wonderful job helping us transform into tea-ready attire. We were the last in the group to pick kimonos so even with many people already dressed there were still racks of patterns to select from. I never felt like more of an origami than here as the staff layered and folded everything into itself to create the finished kimono. It was very comfortable despite all the layers – you just do not see the layers when people are wearing them. The staff even gave my hair a quick up-do using bobbipins and a floral clip to style it.  After our looks were complete, we headed back out into the rain across the street for the tea ceremony. 

We were escorted into a traditional tatami mat room as we sat on the floor in front of our place settings. Our host walked us through the history and traditions of the tea ceremony, its significance, etiquette, and what we would be doing today. While our time together was an hour, formal traditional tea ceremonies can last over 4 hours. One piece that really stuck with me is this “ichi go icho e” = “one time, one meaning” philosophy which means this exact moment will not be repeated or replicated in any way, it only exists now – every moment only happens once in a lifetime. The tea ceremony is a reminder to cherish every moment, it is far more than just the tea, but a call to be present in every moment since it will never happen again. There is also a focus on tranquility and mindfulness that connects to many principles of meditation. 

The first step we were instructed to do was the enjoy a Japanese treat that was on our settings. The goal of the sweet is to balance for the bitter matcha that would follow. For this service, we were given two kinds of desserts – a dry sweet (higashi) and a wet sweet (monogashi). For the dry sweet, we were given a sweet rice powder pressed into a mold. It was very sweet like pure sugar. The second dessert was Yatsuhashi which is a red bean paste inside rice paper folded like a triangle and it was super tasty. Now our palates were ready for the bitter matcha. We observed the host boil the water and prepare her tea like a choreographed dance. Each move is intentional and each tool is an extension of her movements. Once the host concluded the demonstration of a host’s ceremony of tea, it was our turn to make our own tea. She came around giving us hot water before instructing us on how to use the chase – bamboo matcha whisk to blend the tea. The tea ceremony uses freshly powdered matcha tea leaves. And you have to be pretty aggressive in the whisking process in order to get all the powder dissolved and remove the strong bitterness flavor. Kevin very much enjoyed the tea and while it was not my favorite, I did finish it. I have to say the desserts really did help and I just needed a few more of those. 

Unfortunately the weather was not ideal as it was still pouring to take nice photos with our kimonos but we did our best. There is a beautiful zen garden that we took advantage of and did a quick photo shoot but I am sure it is wonderful to be able to venture out and take some really nice photos on good weather days. 

Overall this was a really wonderful experience and besides the photos in kimonos, it ended up being a great activity for the bad weather. It was very neat to witness the tradition and learn more about the tea ceremony. Especially if this is your first time to Japan, definitely take the time to arrange for a traditional tea ceremony and if able, I highly recommend getting dressed in kimonos as well. 

Continue reading all the details of our trip – here!

To see our full itinerary – here!

Read what to expect in Japan – here!

My complete packing list for Japan – here!

See all blog posts for Japan – here!

Related Posts

Packing in a Carry On: Two Weeks Springtime in Japan

Packing in a Carry On: Two Weeks Springtime in Japan

June 2023 Packing in a Carry On: Two Weeks Springtime in Japan Finally! After the pandemic disrupted our first trip to Asia, we had no idea how long it would be until we revived that plan. Well, here we are three years later and we […]

Is it worth it? Visiting teamLab Planets – Tokyo, Japan

Is it worth it? Visiting teamLab Planets – Tokyo, Japan

June 2023 Is it worth it? Visiting teamLab Planets – Tokyo, Japan TeamLab Planets – a wildly popular experience on social media for all the travel and Tokyo influencers. Typically there are two museums of this kind in Tokyo but the larger, more popular one […]

Leave a Reply