Japan is a country of contrast. It is an ancient, soulful and wise land, full of temples, tea fields, and traditions. Yet simultaneously, it is also a modern, high functioning society with high speed bullet trains, hyper-organized cities and posh supermarkets lined with perfectly engineered oranges costing about $20 apiece! Japan is a perfect polarity within one distinct culture: ancient and modern, time-honored and cutting-edge, ceremonial and technological.
Whether in the wooden floored tea and miso shops or the electronic megamarts, Japan will amaze you - and if you open your heart to all the structured beauty that it has to offer, it will also change you. As a traveler in Japan, you are invited to stay present, to stay in a constant state of wonder and curiosity, to notice and cherish every moment, every aspect of life.
There is something awe inspiring about the way that Japan is so completely different, so reverse from the United States. In many respects, the US appreciates space and vibrancy. We value largess and recognize status through accumulation and consumption. Contrast that with Japan, where structure and order are valued, as is the ability to minimize. Efficiency, with everything from food to space, is honored. Neither culture is better than the other, they are simply disparate views of the world. There is much about Japan that we can learn and appreciate.
Take, for example, the Japanese palate where fermented red beans and dried fish flakes lend that illusive umami flavor to most foods. Even the tea is often grown with extra nitrogen in the soil or shaded for some time before harvest to impart a more rich, smooth, oily umami-like essence. This contrasts sharply to the tannic tea and tangy flavors we enjoy more in the West.
Cha-kaiseki is the food served just ahead of a tea ceremony. Small and artfully prepared, it’s as beautiful and delicate as it is delicious. The Japanese value locally grown and produced food, so the selections are always seasonally inspired. They are a reflection of what is happening in nature: cherry blossoms that bloom in the spring, summer’s bounty of strawberries, peaches, or goya, followed by autumn’s provision of chestnuts and sweet potatoes. Winter is the season for soups, savory dishes and the harvest of the citrus orange-like fruits of yuzu and mikan.
To satisfy a sweet tooth, Japanese desserts offer a more subtle sweetness. Wagashi are the small delicacies served after a tea ceremony. They are gorgeous little handmade works of art. Guests are honored with a variety of small sweets like mochi - made with sticky rice and red bean mash - representing the unique flavors of the season and the region where they are served. Wagashi are offered as gifts after a tea ceremony, during festivals and after business or personal trips.
Teas from Japan
Tea harvest in Japan is a highly structured process. It starts carefully picking the tea at exactly the right time when the leaves are at their peak. Then, the leaves are dried and sorted according to leaf grade: fine, small, medium and large. Once categorized, a buyer selects their own blends based on personal preferences. Different combinations provide unique tastes and costs depending on what a buyer is looking for.
Japanese tea ceremonies are an opportunity to relax within the framework of a highly ordered tradition. The ceremony recognizes ancient practices by celebrating with a simple yet meticulous and disciplined process. Guests are invited to prepare mentally and spiritually, set aside the concerns of outside life, be fully present, and step into a spiritual moment where the ‘now’ is appreciated and savored.
- Hoshino Gyokuro - a green tea grown in Hoshino village in Yame, Southern Japan. Shaded for three weeks before harvest, these Yabukita and Okumidori cultivar leaves contain high levels of amino acids, antioxidants and umami flavor to bring you health, focus and enjoyment!
- Ceremonial Matcha - From the ancient tea fields of Aichi Prefecture, Japan, our organic ceremonial matcha will bring you a smooth, rich cup of calm focus. Full of amino acids, chlorophyll, antioxidants and umami, it is the perfect tea for a gathering friends, a quiet moment alone or a shot of peaceful green energy.
- Amai Matcha - Our Amai (sweet in Japanese) Matcha (Japan's ceremonial green tea powder) delivers a decadent taste of ancient Japan.
Teapots of every shape, color and size are available in specialized shops all over Japan. There are so many different styles representing different parts of Japan, different kilns and clays, different styles and artistic interpretations. You’ll see them made with porcelain and clay, even cast iron. Some are traditional - others fanciful. The varieties are endless and the joy is in searching for, and finding, the one that makes you smile.
"We’re fools whether we dance or not. So we might as well dance."
"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow."
Enjoy the rhythmic and entrancing sounds of Japan with our Spotify playlist below.
For all of its contradistinctions, Japan is a country founded on harmony and simplicity. There is much to treasure in this alluring country: the people, food, music, art and, of course, tea.
Bring the tastes and aromas of a distant land to your living room! Host your friends and family for a Japanese Tea Party at home. Everything you'll need including tips and recipes are found in our free downloadable Japanese Tea Party Guide. To get your. copy, click here or on the image below.