After my very brief and busy jaunt to Fushimi Inari Shrine, I had to hunt to find something other than temples to do for the rest of the day. I knew that I definitely wanted to dress in a Kimono if I could, so I did a little google search to see what came up. I stumbled upon a website for a traditional Japanese tea ceremony that you attend whilst wearing a kimono, so I thought – screw it, I’ll do that, and booked it up for later that afternoon!
The ceremony actually took place in a new Samurai Museum that had not long been open, I made my way over to the area where it was located. Once inside the lady gave me a map to where the kimono shop was and told me to leave my stuff with her and head on over there to get kitted out in true Japanese attire.
Over at the store, they told me to put all of my clothes in a paper bag, and then gave me a white, kimono-esque slip thing to put on, which I did. This was then followed by another similar, but thicker, white garment over the top. I was then handed a pair of white socks which have a section between your big toe and your other toes – so that you can wear the traditional Geta footwear. Once I was decked out in my white undergarments I was asked to go and pick which Kimono I wanted off of the rack. So I flicked through them and settled on a really pretty floral number with black, orange and pinks in it. The ladies at the shop then went to work getting me all wrapped up in it. A lot of cinching in the waist and tying it up (“Well women in Japan must have learnt not to breathe!”) then I had to pick out a colourful sash/belt to go with it, so I picked an orange one so that it kind of all matched and tied in nicely. This was then tightly wound around my waist and made into the pretty bow they do at the back. All nice and tight, luckily it wasn’t as hot this day!
They then sat me down in front of a mirror, gave me a laminated sheet with lots of hair styles on it and told me to choose one. I went for one, and then changed my mind and decided on a plaited style. However I think the lady misunderstood which one I pointed to as I think she did a different style – but nevermind it still looked fine! I then had to pick out a flower for her to clip in to complete the look. On the way out the door we had to pick a pair of the Geta flip flop/clog things. The vast majority of them were obviously made for tiny, Asian feet. And here I am with big, western size 7 clown feet. So the ones I picked were still miles too small for me. Which made the walk back to the Samurai museum full of fun and games. I now know why the Geisha girls hobble and walk so slowly in those bloody sandals – it’s the only way! There was a sweet little Filipino lady also doing the ceremony with me, we were the only two there. Her husband and son were there watching though but not participating.
Once back at the Samurai museum we were led into the back where there was a traditional Japanese room with the sliding doors and the mats on the floor. All of the tea apparatus was set up waiting for us and the tea host (her name was Chika) told us to have a seat (or a kneel) on the mats so that we could get started.
It was matcha tea that we would be making, which is a form of green tea. I really do not like green tea, especially just by itself, I was only really there for the ceremony and the kimono. But it did dawn on me that I would actually have to drink it at some point. Yay. Chika began the ceremony by softly wiping all of the equipment down with a red cloth, very ceremoniously. She then did all these various steps which I don’t really understand, kind of repeating the same stuff – obviously all part of the ceremony.
Then it was our turn to join in. We were told to take the lid off of a little black pot and put two heaped scoops of the bright green matcha powder into the bowl. Chika then scooped some boiling water out of the pot and poured it into our bowls – that was one big cup of tea for a non-green-tea-lover! We then had to pick up the little whisk thing and whisk it back and forth until it got all thick and frothy (yuck). The Filipino lady had trouble getting it frothy as she wasn’t whisking hard enough in the right direction. My wrist action was perfect first time though apparently!
Once the tea was made, Chika told us to eat the “sweet” that was sat on the plate. This was a Kyoto delicacy that is often enjoyed before the tea as it enhances the flavour. It was… okay. It tasted a lot like cinamon which I’m not a big fan on, and was kind of like a really thin – not fully cooked – pastry with a chewy centre. Not awful, but I wouldn’t pick it again. Now was the part I was dreading – drinking the actual tea. Oh god. Chika told us to hold the bowl on our flat hand then rotate it once clockwise and then once anti-clockwise. We then had to hold a hand underneath it as we put it to our lips to drink. Chika glugged it down very quickly lapping it up. I was a tad slower. It was awful. So bitter, warm, frothy and thick. I tried to gulp it back as quickly as possible so it would be over! I could tell the Filipino lady wasn’t so keen either, when Chika asked us if we wanted some more, we both looked at each other like “dear god please no”. We then had to wipe our equipment clean with the cloth just like Chika showed us, she did a few more ceremonious actions and it was all finished!
Chika then kindly offered to take some photos of me in my Kimono, as the Filipino lady had her husband and son to take some for her. I had some in the tea room and also some out by the Samurai figures which were pretty cool!
Chika was really sweet and very kind. She emphasised that this was a new place and a new activity they were offering, so if we were to leave a review on trip advisor she would give us a freebie, so of course I agreed. The freebie turned out to be a little, plastic, bobblehead ninja – which sadly I have actually just left in the Philippines as I have no room for it anymore! And I know it’s only a cheap little kiddie thing anyway, so hopefully someone’s child in the Philippines will enjoy it!
The whole tea ceremony was definitely a good, cultural experience. Something very unusual that I have never seen before! Dressing in a kimono too was awesome, something I have always wanted to do – so why not do it in Japan!