Where to experience a tea ceremony in Japan

What is a Japanese tea ceremony?

The Japanese tea ceremony, known as 'chado' or 'sado' (the way of tea), is a traditional ritual influenced by Zen Buddhism in which powdered green tea, or 'matcha', is ceremonially prepared by a skilled practitioner and served to a small group of guests in a tranquil setting. This ritual is a profound expression of hospitality, designed to foster a deep connection between the host and the guests, focusing on the themes of harmony ('wa'), respect ('kei'), purity ('sei'), and tranquility ('jaku').

For those wishing to immerse themselves in Japanese culture, participating in a tea ceremony is a must. Below are the best places to experience a tea ceremony in Japan, offering insights into this beautiful tradition.

Kyoto: The Heart of Chado

Kyoto, once the capital of Japan, remains the heart of traditional tea ceremony culture, with numerous tea houses and gardens offering authentic experiences. The Urasenke Foundation, one of the main schools of Japanese tea ceremony, offers experiences for both beginners and those more familiar with the practice. Additionally, Camellia Garden and Camellia Flower are two popular tea houses in Kyoto that provide guests with the opportunity to participate in a tea ceremony within a beautiful traditional setting.

Tokyo: Tradition Meets Modernity

In Tokyo, the cultural and modern capital of Japan, visitors can find a blend of traditional and contemporary tea ceremony experiences. The Happo-en Garden, known for its exquisite garden and traditional tea house, offers a serene setting for a tea ceremony. For those looking for a more contemporary twist, the Sakurai Japanese Tea Experience provides a modern interpretation of the tea ceremony, combining traditional elements with a modern aesthetic.

Uji: The Birthplace of Japanese Green Tea

Uji, located between Kyoto and Nara, is famous for producing the highest quality green tea in Japan. It is an ideal place to experience a tea ceremony, with the added bonus of learning about the history and cultivation of Japanese green tea. The Taiho-an tea house in Uji offers public tea ceremonies in a picturesque setting, providing a comprehensive experience that includes the history of Japanese tea.

Nara: Ancient Traditions Alive

In Nara, Japan's first permanent capital, visitors can experience the tea ceremony in historic buildings that have stood for centuries. The Nara National Museum occasionally offers tea ceremony experiences in its lush garden, allowing guests to enjoy matcha in a setting surrounded by historic art and architecture.

Tips for Participating in a Tea Ceremony

  • Dress Appropriately: While formal attire is not always required, wearing socks (as you may need to remove your shoes) and modest clothing is recommended.
  • Follow the Lead: The tea ceremony is full of ritual and etiquette. Follow the host's lead and instructions for a respectful experience.
  • Savour the Moment: The tea ceremony is designed to be a meditative experience. Take the time to enjoy the taste of the tea, the beauty of the utensils, and the company of those around you.
  • Plan According to Duration: A traditional, formal tea ceremony, complete with a meal and two servings of tea, may extend up to four hours. If you're pressed for time or prefer a lighter introduction, opt for a shorter ceremony, lasting around 30 minutes to an hour, where you'll enjoy thin tea and some light snacks.


Participating in a tea ceremony in Japan offers a unique window into the country's culture, history, and philosophy. It's an opportunity to slow down, appreciate the moment, and connect with traditional Japanese customs. Whether you choose a ceremony in a historic city like Kyoto or a modern interpretation in Tokyo, the experience is sure to be a highlight of your visit to Japan.