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Timeless Tokyo


Exploring the traditional and the modern ritual of tea-drinking in Tokyo.

Drinking tea is a deeply engrained tradition among Japanese people that has been around for centuries. What began as a ritual linked to Buddhism has grown into a daily routine with trendy teashops on nearly every block. Learn more about the age-old custom by taking a tour (or a sip) at any one of these fascinating places.

Hatakeyama Memorial Museum of Fine Art
Check out this little-visited spot on the outskirts of the city center. The building was the home of a wealthy entrepreneur with a passion for antique tea implements: vessels, tea-related scrolls and the like. In 1964, his wife turned the collection and their home into a museum, which has provided a rare window into some of Japan’s unique traditions. Need directions? Call 81-3-3447-5787.

The Peninsula, Tokyo

Afternoon tea is served, along with a tripled-tiered plate of delicious finger sandwiches and scones, between 2:30 and 5:00 p.m. Call 81-3-6270-2731 or visit peninsula.com for more information.

The Higashiya Tea Shop
Find out how the country’s hipsters have innovated the ritual of tea-drinking. Perched on a cherry tree-lined riverbank, this sparse two-story loft features concrete walls and ceilings of rescued wood. Drink cup after dollhouse-sized cup and then wait for the server to open the teapot and extract a dollop of the potent leaves. This surprisingly tasting task involves placing the leaves into a small dish, drizzling them with ponzu and a drop of sudachi (a subtle citrus fruit), then consuming them with chopsticks. Call 011-81-3-5428-1717 or visit higashiya.com.

This article has been adapted from the original, which was published in August 2007 by MSP Communications.

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