The Japanese Tea House At The Intersection Of Food And Art

Tea has been a significant aspect of Japanese culture since the Kamakura period, when Zen Buddhist monks drank it as a way to sustain lengthy meditations (via Britannica). The tea ceremony is a ritual rooted in religious principles and evolved into a traditional social practice for entertaining guests and hosting discussions. Truly Experiences says that participating in a tea ceremony is a meaningful way to experience a historically and culturally significant part of Japanese culture. And Gallery Okubo, a tea house located in Tokyo's Yanaka District, is offering that to guests — but with a special twist (per CNN).

According to its website, Gallery Okubo opened in 2015 on the second floor of Art Okubo. The owner, Mitsuru Okubo, is an antique dealer, who has spent years collecting traditional ceremonial tea bowls and other artistic wares used in traditional tea ceremonies. His collection has grown immensely, with bowls more than 300 years old and reaching prices as high as $25,000. To celebrate the business' 100th anniversary, Mitsuru followed his daughter's advice and integrated his collection into the Gallery Okubo tea ceremonies and served ceremonial grade tea from his antique bowl collection.

An experience rooted in tradition

With dozens of tea ceremonies in Japan, Gallery Okubo stands out by offering guests Mitsubu's collection of one-of-a-kind bowls to drink from (via CNN). The presentation is similar to the way tea has been presented during tea ceremonies for centuries, Art of Japanese Tea explains; artistic ceramic bowls, or "chawan," are presented to guests. At Gallery Okubo, visitors have the opportunity to sip tea in the way Japan's tea masters intended — all for the friendly price of $8 per person (per Gallery Okubo).

But, that's not all they offer. Visitors from CNN described entering the cafe through the first floor, where they were greeted with displays of Mitsubu's collection before being led upstairs to the tatami room. The tatami room is a traditional space dedicated to tea ceremonies, and like Okubu's, a lot of thought goes into the design. Traditionally, the rooms are small, simple, and rustic (via Britannica). Before entering, guests select their tea bowl from a shelf and sit down to be served in a traditional manner. 

Using a wooden ladle, the kimono-wearing host pours hot water into a bowl and blends tea with a bamboo whisk. The tea is served frothy and hot in the bowls selected by the guests. Along with the tea, the tea-drinkers are also served sweet jelly and bean paste cakes shaped like hydrangea flowers. Sounds like art to us!