This spring, as many of you know, we flew to Japan with our new friends gathered from all over the nation.
12 of us flew to Japan separately and joined together in Kyoto. We all spoke English but with different accents! And we all shared one thing: love of tea, and we were all ready for adventure.
We had the privilege to have a renowned tea master, Bruce Richardson, and his lovely wife come along with us. Bruce shared his deep knowledge about tea and culture the entire time, from day 1.
Our 7-day itinerary included Kyoto, Kagoshima, and Koya Mountain Monastery.
Kagoshima is located on the south end of Kyushu island of Japan. Kyoto is on the main island. During the visit, we covered a lot of land–the total distance of 3 locations we visited is 1,926 km (about 805 miles); 30 miles longer than the whole length of California.
Traveling with all sorts of transportation was also a part of the cultural experience; a couple of chartered buses with guides who speak English, rapid trains, Shinkansen (bullet train), domestic flight, a slow train that stopped at every single station, tramway to climb up a 3,000 feet mountain, and taxies. We also rode on a local bus because rapid trains were canceled due to trees felled by severe wind.
Crossing The Bridge to Another World
Japan is a fascinating country. The culture is so different and the differences can be not exactly the opposite. Often it’s different in every dimension and direction simultaneously. That, in itself, made this trip an adventure. We enjoyed witnessing the unique mixture of ancient wisdom and myths in one of the most modern countries in the world.
Another thing beyond our expectations was the warm welcome and hospitality we received at each tea company we visited in Kagoshima.
Shizuoka and Uji are the traditional regions famous for producing tea in Japan. I have a little-known fact to share with you: Kagoshima is the second biggest tea producer in Japan, and I was told the yield of the first crop this spring in Shizuoka was 40% lower than last year due to the long cold spell they had in spring. Now, it would be safe to say Kagoshima is the biggest producer.
Some of you may wonder about the quality of Kagoshima tea. Here is another little-known fact: A lot of Kaogoshima tea is transported to Shizuoka and packed there and called “Shizuoka tea.” So it seems Kagoshima tea has been supporting the brand power of Shizuoka tea!
Each one of the tea companies we visited was making unconventional efforts to produce quality teas for you: healthy, tasty, and safe. It is quite interesting to see that the approaches toward the same goal are uniquely different.
Probably, you’ve seen a photo of a green tea field. The green vastness is impressive at first sight. And it can give you an impression all the tea fields are the same. Looking at emerald-green rows of Camellia Sinensis plants in the photos we took, someone might say these are “typical” tea gardens. But we witnessed that the producers were not “typical” or “ordinary.”
We are always trying to offer tastier, healthier, and safer teas to you. Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” It takes a different level of consciousness to create an improved outcome. These people have a different level of consciousness about the “quality” of tea than the giant companies who make teas for “mass market” and “mass profit.” When we looked at the leaves closely, the difference was obvious. The leaves looked very healthy and happy, sparkling with bright sunlight under the gorgeous blue sky.
As we learned deeper, we felt like we were deeper in a world of different consciousness over the simple thing: tea.
One of our lunches was the fruition of a master chef’s creativity and green tea’s versatility. Each one of the 7-course lunch was made with green tea and was pleasing to the eye and a delight to the palate. Who could imagine green tea could make such a wide variety of tantalizing dishes?
And the finale of our trip was an overnight stay at Mount Koya filled with over 100 monasteries. A monk called Kukai, or Kobo-daishi, started this monastic retreat during the 9th century. It’s one of the most magical destinations in Japan. The town was safe to stroll around on your own, taking in its spiritual charm.
Linger in the “Beautiful Foolishness”
In the above picture taken during our tour, Bruce Richardson, a tea master and tea historian, is talking about “The Book of Tea” and the author, Okakura Kakuzo. His generous lecture on tea and culture added great depth to our tour.
In “The Book of Tea”, Okakura Kakuzo said:
“Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle. Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things.”
Nothing better than a serene moment after a big hustling achievement. With each exciting visit and pleasant surprises and discoveries, we had a moment of contemplation like he described. “Beautiful foolishness” became our favorite quickly. We savored many of the simple yet luxurious moments of “beautiful foolishness”.
What’s still lingering inside of me is the dynamic catalystic growth in our group chemistry. Intriguing lectures by Bruce, delightful tasteful meals, the horizontal and vertical distance we covered, warm hospitality, green tea gardens, pale pink cherry blossoms, bright sun and blue sky–each one of them acted on each one of us, our amazing traveling companions.
The whole trip was like the best form of meditation… great mindfulness in each moment with all 5 senses pleasantly stimulated and alert.
Click the image below to enjoy the photos from our amazing trip!
Time for you to sip tea and slip into “The World of Teaism; Art of Life”
“The Book of Tea” is not about tea; it’s about life, and written in English by a Japanese scholar, whose English was better than his Japanese. Here are a few more quotes from “The Book of Tea”:
“Tea is more than an idealization of the form of drinking; it is a religion of the art of life.”
“Friends are flowers in life’s garden.”
“Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order.”
We now offer “The Book of Tea” with introduction by Bruce Richardson at our online shop.
“Bruce Richardson includes many historical photographs and illustrations in this updated edition of Okakura’s classic text, along with a unique insight into how Okakura’s philosophy continues to inspire today’s tea culture. Plus, Richardson includes an all-new chapter on America’s thirst for Japanese tea during the late 1800s, illustrated with archival photographs.
If you would like to discover “one of the twentieth century’s most influential books on art, beauty, and simplicity—all steeped in the world’s communal cup of tea,” click the button below and shop for your copy autographed by Bruce Richardson.”