Tokyo, like any mega metropolis, is a myriad of electronic billboards and maddening traffic, yet still manages to stay efficient in spite of the chaos. You may think that to experience the authentic ‘old Japan’ your best bet would be to travel outside of Tokyo, but that doesn’t have to be the case!
One of the most formal and elegant ways to enjoy a taste of traditional Japanese culture is to experience the ancient art of the Japanese tea ceremony, which is surprisingly easy to come across if you know where to look.
What is a Japanese Tea Ceremony?
When green tea was brought to Japan in the 11th century by a Japanese monk, Myoan Eisai, it was for religious purposes. He showed how to prepare, serve and drink tea, which became the basis of the tea ceremony. He also wrote on the spiritual and physical benefits of tea, and over time its popularity grew. By the 16th century, matcha (powdered green tea) and the Japanese form of tea ceremony had become the norm within Japanese culture.
Japanese tea ceremony or sadō, also known as chadō, is an elaborate act of making and drinking matcha in a specific, formalised manner. It exemplifies the very essence of Japanese hospitality – harmony, purity, respect, and tranquillity.
Each ceremony is unique and will differ depending upon those participating, the time of day, the season, and the room where it is taking place. A full-length ceremony can last up to four hours. Now, for a small fee, there are many places in Tokyo that will guide you through a simple version of this traditional ritual.
To experience this ancient ritual, we have compiled our choice of the top 10 places around Tokyo where you can experience a traditional tea ceremony for yourself.
You can now experience Japanese Tea ceremony hosted by an English speaking tea master, Ms. Motoyama Sosei, at the Royal Park Hotel in a traditional tea room that overlooks a beautiful Japanese garden. The 50 minute session includes a detailed explanation of the ritual, the tea ceremony itself, and matcha preparation.
Admission: ¥2,000 (10-15 people max per session)
Hours: Four times per day at 11:00am, 12:00pm, 14:00pm and 15:00pm. For reservations call +81-3-5641-3600
Location: 5th Floor, Tea room “Kouuntei”
Address: 2-1-1 Nihonbashi-Kakigara-Cho, Chuo-Ku, Tokyo 103-8520
Access: 10-minute walk from Shiodome Station
Nadeshiko is primarily a kimono rental shop, but also offers a traditional tea ceremony plan with or without having to rent a kimono.
Admission: ¥4,400 for tea ceremony complete with kimono rental. ¥2,700 without kimono. Advance booking is required. Tel: +81-3-3842-8756
Hours: 11:00 to 17:00 everyday except Wednesday & Thursday
Location: 2nd floor at Panda Café Chanoka, 2-7-24-2F Asakusa Taito-ku Tokyo
Access: 3-minute walk from Asakusa Station
This is on our list because it offers an informal and inexpensive style of tea ceremony. This Tokyo tea house is set on a seawater pond in the beautifully landscaped Hamarikyu Garden that dates back to the 16th century.
However, this is a D.I.Y tea ceremony and you will be given an ‘instruction sheet’ with no host to formally guide you through the ceremony. However, staff are on hand to assist you in case you need help.
Admission: ¥300 for the Hamarikyu Gardens entrance fee, and ¥510 for the tea ceremony (inclusive of tea and wagashi)
Hours: It follows the Hamarikyu Gardens daily opening hours from 9:00 to 17:00 (with last entry at 16:30). Closed from December 29th to January 1st. No advance booking required.
Location: Inside Hamarikyu Gardens, 1-1 Hamarikyuteien, Chuo, Tokyo 104-0046
Access: From Shiodome Station, about a 10 minute walk.
HiSUi Tokyo is a school specialising in the teaching of traditional Japanese culture. In addition, it also organises a ‘cultural experience’, where visitors can choose from any of the variety of courses offered. Their tea ceremony course lasts between 30-45 minutes, during which you will be lectured on the tea room and the correct postures and ways to enjoy matcha and wagashi, followed by the tea ceremony itself.
Hours: Weekdays: 17:30 – 20:30 Saturday & Sunday: 11:30 – 20:30. Reservation is required. Call 0120-666-107
Location: 5th Floor Koizumi Building, Ginza 4-3-13 Chuo Ward, Tokyo
Access: 1-minute walk from Ginza Station B4 Exit
Sakaeya is another kimono rental shop but you receive a complimentary tea ceremony with every kimono rented. Rental rates vary, starting from ¥6,000. Sales also available.
Access: 5 minute walk from JR Harajuku Station
Hours: Shop open by appointment only and advance booking is required. Tel: +81(0)70-5556-4393 between 10:30 to 17:00
Chazen in Ginza, in addition to holding authentic tea ceremonies, also sells tea utensils and as well as tea room design and construction services. Chazen was founded by Ms. Rie Takeda, a Professor of Ikenobokado with 30+ years’ experience in Japanese tea ceremony both locally and overseas. The program includes tea ceremony lectures, tea leaf grinding for matcha powder, tea ceremony demonstration, seasonal matcha flavoured sweets and how to make your own matcha.
Hours: Every hour from 10:00 to 20:00. The last session starts at 19:00. Reservation required. Call +81-3-6264-0690
Location: 5F Ginza Ishikawa Bldg. 4-12-17 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo (next to Kabuki-za)
Access: Higashi-Ginza Station
You can explore Suntory Museum of Art’s vast collection of Japanese arts and crafts and then attend an authentic Japanese Tea Ceremony.
Admission: ¥1,000 for tea ceremony in addition to museum entrance fee of ¥1,300 (varies by exhibition)
Hours: Tea ceremony at 13:00, 14:00, and 15:00 held on designated Thursdays, visit the website for actual dates. Limited to 50 people only. Ticket on sale on the same day at 10:00 at 3rd floor. Reservations not available.
Location: Genchoan tea ceremony room, 6th floor, Tokyo Midtown Galleria, 9-7-4 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-8643
Access: Direct connection from Exit 8 of the Roppongi station
Another affordable place to experience traditional Japanese tea ceremony is at Kyoto-kan, an information and tourist centre established by Kyoto city. A professional host will take you through a 20-minute session at the “Experience Corner”.
Admission: ¥500. Tel: 03-5204-2265
Hours: Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 12:30 to 16:30
Location: Yanmar Tokyo Building 1F 2-1-1, Yaesu, Chuo-ku Tokyo, 104-0028
Access: From Yaesuchuoguchi Tokyo Station, 1-minute walk.
Experience a choice of either a casual tea ceremony complete with matcha green tea and wagashi, or by reservation a complete lesson on the ceremony’s etiquette and traditional procedures.
Admission: Varies. Reservation required for private lesson. Call: 03-3443-3775
Hours: 11:00 to 16:00
Location: 1-1-1 Shirokanedai, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Access: 1-min. walk from Tokyo Metro Namboku Line / Toei Mita Line Shirokanedai Station
Yanesen offers an authentic tea ceremony in a room filled with many aspects of Japanese art and culture. An English interpreter is on hand to guide you both as a guest and a host.
Admission: ¥5,800 (if 2+ people, ¥4,850/person) Reservation not required. Tel: 03-3828-7878
Hours: 60 minutes 10:00 ~21:00
Location: 3-16-6 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Access: 5-minute walk from exit No.2 Sendagi Station
Choose from any of the above places to soak up this ancient Japanese tradition—from the formal to the casual—across a variety of price ranges on your next trip to Tokyo. Have any tea ceremony questions or suggestions, or just looking to share your own experiences? Leave a comment below!