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A woman in a kimono pouring tea for a Japanese tea ceremony.
A woman in a kimono pouring tea for a Japanese tea ceremony.

Japanese Tea Ceremony: The Ultimate Guide!

Thuy FangThuy Fang
Published Time
Posted on December 28, 2023

The Japanese tea ceremony, “sado” or “chanoyu”, goes beyond just making and drinking tea. It’s like a beautiful expression of art, etiquette, and philosophy deeply woven into people’s daily lives.

Join us on a journey to discover the artful elegance and cultural depth of the Japanese tea ceremony and some worth visiting places to experience it.

When was the first tea ceremony?

In the eighth century, tea made its way into Japan from China through various tea traders. At first, it served as a medicinal drink primarily consumed by priests and the upper class.

Yet, in the Muromachi Period (1333-1573), tea became increasingly common among all social classes in Japan. During this period, gatherings at tea parties also became prevalent among the rich, featuring splendid tea vessels and a demonstration of expertise in tea.

A woman in a purple kimono pouring tea..
The tea ceremony originated in Kyoto. Image via Shutterstock

Then, the formalized tea ceremony we know today started from these social gatherings. In the late 1500s, Sen no Rikyu introduced the four main principles of the tea ceremony, including harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility.

Later, it evolved into the well-known Wabi Sabi-style ceremony, highlighting the importance of simplicity. So, the most complete Japanese tea ceremony was born like that.

What is the tea ceremony etiquette?

Because it used to be an essential ritual for the aristocracy, the tea ceremony has many rules and specific standards that participants should follow to show respect. Some basic etiquettes you might quickly notice when experiencing it:

What should I wear?

Choosing suitable clothes for conventional events in Japan shows respect for the culture. Usually, people wear traditional kimonos, but if you don’t have one, it’s best to avoid overly casual outfits and opt for something more formal.

A woman and a man wearing kimono while drinking tea .
Wearing a kimono is suitable for a tea ceremony. Image via Shutterstock

Wearing sleeveless shirts, ripped jeans, and hats is usually not allowed at a Japanese tea party. Additionally, it’s a good idea to have clean socks since the ceremony takes place in a traditional Japanese-style room with tatami mats, and you’ll need to take off your shoes before entering.

How should I bow?

Quietly bow to each other when you first meet the host and other guests at the start of the ceremony. Also, bow to the host one more time before sitting down. Then, the bowing gesture occurs again when you receive tea and accompanying sweets from the host.

A cup of matcha powder, a whisk and cup of matcha tea.
Matcha is the tea of choice. Image via Shutterstock

How should I drink and eat?

You should eat and drink everything offered to you, such as tea and traditional sweets. The principle of the ceremony is to drink tea slowly and quietly. Take small sips of the tea and then gently put the cup back on the tatami. 

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What are the most common Japanese snacks at a tea ceremony?


A plate of colorful skewered dango.
Dango uses glutinous rice! Image via Shutterstock

Dango is a yummy Japanese dumpling made by mixing rice flour, uruchi rice flour, and glutinous rice flour together. With various flavors and colors, dango offers a soft and chewy texture. Dango is considered one of the most popular wagashi (Japanese traditional sweet). This tasty treat is often enjoyed with green tea during specific seasons throughout the year, like sakura season


This wagashi is a favorite sweet in Japan and has an amazing meaning – great luck. Daifuku is a small, round, and sweet mochi filled with different yummy treats, often using azuki (red bean paste). Besides the usual azuki filling, daifuku also gets creative, adding fresh fruits like strawberries, grapes, and even tangerines. 


Senbei is a classic Japanese snack that has been around for a long time. It is made by mixing rice or wheat flour with water, flattening the dough, and baking it until it becomes crispy.

A bunch of senbei, one of the best snacks in Japan.
Senbei are rice crackers! Image via Shutterstock

These traditional crackers come in diverse shapes and sizes. Furthermore, they are seasoned with soy sauce, honey, salt, or nori (dried seaweed). In Japanese culture, senbei is served with tea, creating a perfect balance between its salty or savory notes and the drink.

Where are the best places to go for a tea ceremony?

Kimono Tea Ceremony Tokyo MAIKOYA

Tokyo MAIKOYA is located near the peaceful Meiji Shrine and close to famous spots like Asakusa and Sensoji Temple in Tokyo. This spot will give you a genuine experience with a proper tea ceremony, where you can enjoy drinking green tea while dressing up in a traditional kimono.

A woman in a blue kimono pouring tea for a Japanese tea ceremony.
Drinking tea is a very serene activity. Image via Shutterstock

Plus, you can stroll through their beautiful garden with red gates and bamboo. Tokyo MAIKOYA also lets you make Japanese sweets and enjoy them with tea, giving a fun, hands-on experience to your cultural adventure. After a tea ceremony, you can even explore the Asakusa district in your kimono.

airKitchen Tea Ceremony Experiences

airKitchen is a platform that helps you choose from a variety of cultural classes in Tokyo, hosted by local Japanese and including the Japanese tea ceremony.

A bunch of utensils necessary for a Japanese tea ceremony.
The tea ceremony involves a lot of intricate utensils! Image via Shutterstock

The airKitchen tea experiences are not just about drinking tea, they also let you make wagashi or other traditional dishes in the company of your English-speaking host. This way, you can easily immerse yourself in Japan’s cultural and culinary aspects. 

Hisui Tokyo Tea Ceremony 

Located in the trendy neighborhood of Ginza, Hisui Tokyo is more than just a tea room. It’s a cultural school where you can explore different aspects of Japanese traditions. Besides the tea ceremony, you’ll have the opportunity to experience kimono dressing, the Japanese art of writing, Japanese crafts, martial arts, samurai swordsmanship, and many more.

Why should I go to a Japanese tea ceremony?

Attending a Japanese tea ceremony is not just about enjoying tea but it’s a captivating adventure into the heart of Japanese culture. The ceremony, deeply rooted in history, is a harmonious blend of incredible art and manners.

A woman and a man drinking tea at a Japanese tea ceremony.
Have you even been to a Japanese tea ceremony? Image via Shutterstock

Overall , this is also one of the leading cultural activities many tourists engage in when visiting Japan. Have you attended a Japanese tea ceremony? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

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