Your Guide to Japanese Tea Ceremonies

Tea is integral to Japanese culture, and it is often enjoyed in the formal setting of a tea ceremony, which is a common practice in tea houses across Japan, particularly in the larger cities of Tokyo and Kyoto. Attending a tea ceremony can give you a greater sense of the rituals and traditions of Japanese culture, but there are some facts to know before you attend one—or plan one in your own home.

Ceremony Origins

Tea ceremonies celebrate the beauty of routine life, and they have very specific steps involved. These ceremonies are influenced by Zen Buddhism, and they provide an opportunity to appreciate life in the moment, since so much attention and full participation is required during the ceremony.

Steps and Etiquette

There are formal and informal tea ceremonies, known as chaji and chakai, respectively. Both have specific etiquette procedures to follow, but the chaji is much more elaborate and may actually last several hours. With each ceremony, there is a tradition of waiting for the host to serve you food and saying “Osakini itadakimasu” before accepting anything. This phrase translates to “excuse me for going ahead of you.”

Following the food, the tea is served. With chaji ceremonies, there is a thick tea and a thin tea. In chakai ceremonies, only thin tea is served. When drinking tea, you should raise the bowl with your right hand and place it in the palm of your left with the design facing outward. Take a sip from the bowl, then wipe the rim and pass it to the next person.

In Japan, choreographed rituals are a part of daily life. To experience a small taste of Japanese culture and customs right in San Jose, visit House of Genji for your next dinner out. We are a Japanese steakhouse and cocktail lounge offering a uniquely different dining experience for dates, large groups, or any other special occasion. Make a reservation at (408) 453-8120 or visit our website to browse our menu.

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