Whether you’re a practitioner of the Japanese tea ceremony or not, the annual Tokyo Grand Tea Ceremony abounds with opportunities for cultural enlightenment.
Starting in 2009, the festival is not just an event at which kimono-clad, upright-sitting ladies would demonstrate to you the decorum of Japan’s long-inherited spirit of omotenashi (hospitality), which has characterized the tea ceremony.
It will also stage some shows featuring Japan’s traditional performing arts. Among them is Edo daikagura, a variety of traditional Japanese entertainment that has long been popular. One of the most high-profile of these is an acrobatic stunt in which performers display a dexterous command of umbrellas and juggle with temari balls.
Another traditional performing art featured is kiyari-uta, a type of folk song that originated among carpenters and scaffolding builders in the Edo Period (1603-1867), with the predominant theory being that it was derived from the shouts they released in chorus whenever they tried to lift up heavy things. Kiyari-uta evolved into a performing art that represents the virility of Japanese blue-collar workers. Other highlights include Japanese buyo dancing and a shakuhachi (vertical Japanese bamboo flute) concert.
All the more reason to join the festival, of course, are the tea ceremonies.
One of the most-looked-forward-to programs every year is a participatory tea ceremony demonstration designed for non-Japanese, in which they will be educated on the nitty-gritty of the country’s dedicated altruism. The whole session will be conducted in English. Local high school students will also take part in welcoming guests and demonstrating their own performances of tea ceremony.
The two-day festival will take place in Hama Rikyu Gardens, which, despite being located in the middle of the skyscrapers that make up the urbanized Shiodome district, boasts a surprising abundance of seasonal flowers — hence its nickname the “urban oasis.”
Tokyo Grand Tea Ceremony 2012 takes place at Hama Rikyu Gardens in Tokyo on Oct. 13 and 14. Ticket prices vary among the different programs. For more information, call (03) 3813 1340 or visit www.tokyo-grand-tea-ceremony2012.jp .