a VirtualTourist member
I live in London but will visit Japan in a couple of months and would like to experience traditional Japan. Specifically, I would like to take part in a tea ceremony.
I am trying to read up on the rituals surrounding this but understand that I will be no where close to understanding all subtlelties around it for this trip. What is the best way of being able to take part in a tea ceremony as a westener without embarrassing one self too much?
Some hotels and culture centers offer tea ceremony targeting foreigners, like this one. newotani.co.jp/en/tokyo/serv...
I don't know of any specific places that hold a tea ceremony, but there are special events from time to time, but it varies on the season and location so it is very difficult to find them.
In my own personal experience, if you are worried about the customs of what to do, the safest thing to do is to just go to any tea house in a Japanese garden. They usually have one (Shinjuku Gyoen has one) and you can buy some green tea from them. It usually comes with a small snack too. They aren't really picky on the rules and they usually just bring the tea and snack out for you. You don't get to see them do anything but the cups and setting are nice. A real tea ceremony is traditionally held in a tatami room and it can be pretty expensive if you go there on your own.
As Dru46 wrote, a tea ceremony in a garden is a safe choice.
You did not say where exactly in Japan you planned to travel, but you'll likely spend some time in Tokyo. I enjoyed a tea ceremony at the Happo-en garden a while back. Here is the website for more info: