Saturday, November 27, 2010


One of my musts of this trip to Japan has been tea. It is quite tempting to use tea as a verb to give the full range of applications or identifications with the word but it has been a part of our routine and a priority for shopping, whether for ourselves or for souvenirs.

At a temple market a few days ago we splashed out on a bit of tea, buying just over a kilogram. On Friday, however, we did ourselves one better by going to the city of Uji, just 25 minutes outside of Kyoto. I don't know if it was a coincidence or not that the train was that soft green of matcha, but throughout the city there was the crisp waft of matcha in the streets. Nadine made a point of tasting the local version of the matcha ice cream and we wandered around from tea shop to tea shop to see what varieties of blends and uses they had come up with for the stuff. There were chocolates made with the matcha (including matcha flavoured Kitkats), a variety of wafers, cookies and confections to choose from, not to mention the delicate, pretty sugar candies that are made to compliment the bitter taste of the matcha.

While in Uji, we also attended a quick sado or tea ceremony, a reminder of the attention to detail that is such a part of Japanese routine. Watching the discipline and grace of the ceremony made me even more curious about the ceremony and left me wondering what nuances there would be to different people's execution of the ceremony. If nothing else, it was a quiet moment of our day and a chance to sit and absorb things at a more leisurely pace. It was very easy to forget everything that was beyond that bare room.

After the ceremony we meandered back through the city, also known as the place where The Tales of Genji - one of the earlier examples of the novel - was written and the home to the ancient temple that is featured on the Japanese 10-yen coin. It was a great respite from the crowds and bustle that had been so common at the popular sites in Kyoto. At our unhurried pace, we probably could have passed even more of the day in one of the more sedate and contemplative quarters of Kyoto.