Japan Tea Tour 2018

Uji, Japan Lotus TempleJapan Tea Tour 2018

Welcome to our Japan Tea Tour 2018! This tour includes visits to Uji, Shizuoka, Shiga, and Kyoto. You will get to explore the complex and fascinating tea culture of central Japan.

Tea has a long and storied history in Japan. Arriving from China sometime before the 9th century, tea quickly became one of the most enduring cultural icons in Japan. Initially reserved for priests and monks, tea drinking now plays an important role in all levels of society.

On this tour, you will experience the Zen Buddhist influenced formal Japanese tea ceremony, tour tea gardens and tea producing factories, , taste traditional Japanese cuisine and tea paired sweets, and drink some of the freshest and best tasting green teas available.

See what other tea travelers have said about Little Tree’s Japan Tour:

Amazing!!

Mary P. Japan Tour 2017

Make a Reservation Now!

Tour Dates: May 13th – 21st, 2018

Cities/Areas: Osaka, Uji, Shizuoka, Shiga, and Kyoto

Itinerary in Brief:

Day 1 – Kyoto Arrive in Japan

Day 2 – Kyoto – Japanese Garden, Tea Ceremony, & Bamboo Workshop

Day 3 – Shizuoka – Shinkansen travel, Fermented Tea Factory, & High Mountain Tea Garden

Day 4 – Kyoto – Tea Auction House, Tea Factory, Shizuoka City Tea Street

Day 5 – Uji – Ceramics Studio, Wagashi Tea Sweets Factory, & Matcha Factory

Day 6 – Uji – Uji Tea Gardens, Tea Picking, Tea Factory, Tea Shrine, Tea Game, & Home Dinner

Day 7 – Uji – Sencha Fair, Uji free exploration, & Brewing Lecture

Day 8 – Kyoto – Zen Meditation, Temples, Tea shops, Antique shop, & Souvenir shopping

Day 9 – Kyoto/Osaka – Depart

Shrine Gate

Detailed Itinerary

-Depart home airport. All flights need to arrive in Osaka Airport (KIX) by 3pm on May 13th. Depending on where you are traveling from, you may need to leave your home airport on the 11th.

Here are some ideas on what to pack.

 

Japan MealDay 1 – Arrival

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All guests will arrive in Japan by 3pm. Upon arrival at Osaka International Airport (KIX), you will be greeted in person and taken to your hotel in Kyoto where you can relax and unwind after your long journey.

After relaxing at the hotel, we will enjoy a welcome meal together. After dinner, we will be taken back to the hotel for a restful night’s sleep.

 

Day 2 – Japanese Garden, Tea Ceremony, & Bamboo Workshop

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After enjoying breakfast in our hotel, we will check out and travel by private bus to an old Japanese Garden.  We will tour the beautiful garden and marvel at the exquisite, and uniquely Japanese, landscaping techniques.  The grounds of this peaceful garden are filled with precisely trimmed trees, fountains, small pagodas, Japanese topiary, and old tea houses.  After touring the grounds, we will gather in one of the traditional old tea houses and experience the formal Japanese tea ceremony for ourselves.  With the help of a local teacher, we will participate in, and learn all about, the Japanese tea ceremony Chasen 2(Chanoyu).  An experienced tea master will prepare a bowl of Matcha (powdered green tea) for us to enjoy in a formal setting. We will get a chance to learn the intricacies of hosting a guest in a traditional tea house, making and serving a proper bowl of Matcha with the appropriate tools and techniques, and showing respect towards an ancient culture and tradition. This is the perfect start to an exploration of Japanese tea!

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After lunch we will travel to a bamboo workshop.  Here we will get to meet artisans specializing in the production of tools specific to the tea ceremony. We will get to see the production of bamboo water ladles, tea scoops, and whisks. This detailed, hand-crafted work has been passed down from generation to generation and is a fascinating process to witness.

After our tea bamboo workshop visit, we will return to Kyoto.  Once in Kyoto, you will have some time in the early evening to explore the city before enjoying dinner together at Iyemon restaurant.  Iyemon specializes in modern Japanese cuisine with an eye towards traditional Japanese tea culture. After dinner, you will be taken back to your hotel for the night.

 

Day 3 – Shinkansen, Tea Factories, Fermented Tea, & High Mountain Tea Garden

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On our third day in Japan, we will travel from Kyoto to Shizuoka City while visiting some beautiful tea gardens along the way.  We will travel mostly by the famed Shinkansen Train, or Bullet Train, to Shizuoka Prefecture, home to the iconic Mt. Fuji.  Our train journey will take most of the morning.  We will stop near Isagawa to explore Shizuoka tea making.  We will first visit a unique kind of tea factory.  We will have an opportunity to see a specific type of fermented tea only found here.  Yamabuki-nadeshiko, also known as Rose, is a new type of tea developed in Japan.  Similar to some Pu’er teas, Yamabuki-nadeshiko uses a special microbial fermentation process to create a healthy tea and a one of a kind flavor.  We will learn about this special process and tour the high-tech clean rooms used to make this unique tea.

After visiting the fermented tea factory, we will travel into the hills for a picnic lunch.

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After lunch, we will visit an organic high elevation tea garden and factory nestled in the steep slopes of the Shizuoka mountains. This tea garden is special because the tea plants are grown on steep, rocky slopes at a higher altitude than most other Japanese tea. The rocky soil and steep slopes provide excellent drainage and impart a higher mineral content to the tea leaves giving a special, unmistakable flavor.

After visiting the fields, we will tour the organic tea processing factory , where we will see the steaming, rolling, and drying process that is used to create the finished tea. After seeing the process first hand, we will be able to taste some freshly finished tea, processed just hours before. There is nothing like the smell and taste of freshly processed tea. A true tea lovers delight!

After our factory visit, we will travel on to Shizuoka city where we will check into our hotel and enjoy dinner before retiring for the night.

 

Day 4 – Tea Auction House, Tea Factory, & Tea Street

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On our forth day in Japan, we will wake up early and visit the bustling Tea Auction House of Shizuoka City.  Much of the tea produced in Shizuoka is bought and sold through this auction house. We will see real buyers and sellers sampling fresh tea and negotiating over prices with the help of an auction house intermediary. Once an agreement is made, all three (buyer, seller, and intermediary) clap 3 times to signal that a deal has been made.  We will learn about how farmers and wholesalers taste and evaluate tea for commercial sale.  This is a rare peak into the large, Japanese tea wholesale business.

After our tour of the auction house, we will visit a tea factory in downtown Shizuoka City. We will tour this large tea factory and see the processing and packaging of several types of Shizuoka green tea.

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After our auction and factory tours, we will enjoy lunch before exploring Shizuoka’s famous Tea Street.  Here we will find all kinds of tea merchants and tea ware retailers.  This is a great opportunity to taste and buy Shizuoka teas and hand made tea pots.  If we are lucky, we might even get a peak of Mt. Fuji, which lies just outside of Shizuoka City.

After enjoying Shizuoka’s Tea Street, we will return to Kyoto by Shinkansen.

 

Day 5 – Ceramics Studio, Tea Sweets, & Matcha Factory

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On our fifth day in Japan, we will explore some of the cultural and culinary treats of tea life in Japan.  After breakfast, we will travel to the traditional pottery village of Shigaraki. Home to one of the six oldest kilns in Japan and known for its high quality clay, Shigaraki is a fascinating cultural and artistic experience. While in Shigaraki, we will visit a working pottery studio. This workshop is a traditional, family run tea ware workshop. We will get to see first hand how high end, hand-made tea ware is created. These are one of a kind pieces of the highest quality.

houzan station

After our ceramic studio visit, we will travel to the Shoujuan Confectionary Factory. Here we will learn about Wagashi, traditional Japanese sweets made specifically to be served with tea. Wagashi are an integral part of the formal tea ceremony. They are usually made from mochi (glutinous rice flour), anko (red bean paste), or fruit.  We will learn about the traditions behind Wagashi and see how the different sweets are made.  Shoujuan grows many of the fruits that are used in their sweets.  After a short tour, we will get to make our very own wagashi for our own tea ceremony.  After our Wagashi lesson, we will have lunch and participate in a tea ceremony involving some of the sweets we just made!

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After our wagashi lesson and tea ceremony, we will travel to the Koyamaen Matcha Factory.  Here we will see how the most honored Japanese green tea, Matcha, is made.  We will see how the fresh leaves are processed, ground into fine green powder, and packaged for sale.  We will also learn the perfect method for making a proper bowl of Matcha green tea.

The Koyamaen Matcha Factory is on the outskirts of Uji, which is also where we will be staying for the next few days of the tour.  Uji is the birthplace and cultural center of Japanese tea.  After our Matcha factory tour, we will be taken to our Ryoken in Uji for check-in.  A Ryoken is a traditional Japanese inn.  Think bed and breakfast, but Japanese style.  Although quite different from a western hotel, a ryoken stay is a quintessential Japanese experience and should not be missed.  Each guest is given a Japanese robe for lounging and traditional futon mattresses rest simply on tatami floors.  Our Ryoken in Uji is very simple and rustic with shared bathrooms and shared Japanese baths only.


Day 6 – Tea Picking, Gyokuro Garden, Factory Visit, & Tea Game

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Uji fieldAfter breakfast at the Ryoken, we will explore the tea fields of Uij first hand.  We will first visit a local tea garden and factory where we will see the process of picking tea leaves.  Stroll through the rows of green tea bushes and watch the harvesting of new shoots and leaves to be brought back to the factory for processing.  At the factory, we will see the process of turning fresh leaves into finished loose leaf tea.

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After lunch, we will travel to a Gyokuro tea garden. Gyokuro is one of the highest grades of Japanese green teas available. Gyokuro is shade grown under tarps or traditional bamboo covers for a certain period of time before harvest. This shading process increases the plant’s Tanide pickersproduction of certain amino acids, resulting in a deep green tea with a rich, savory flavor. We will get to experience the careful growing and hand picking of this prized tea.  We may even have the opportunity to help with the harvest and pick our own tea leaves!

After learning about Gyokuro, we will be taken to a finishing factory. This factory processes several different types of tea. We will get to see the processing of green tea raw material, the sorting of this material into different grades, and the final blending of different batches to arrive at a finished product of the highest quality. This factory tour will showcase tea production at its finest and most complex.

After the factory tour, we will play a fun tea game! We will participate in a lighthearted tea competition game at the local town hall. We will taste several different teas and try to identify them. Test your taste buds and use your newly gained tea knowledge to identify different types of teas from several different areas and factories.

After our tea game we will enjoy dinner at a local home.  Here we will get the rare opportunity to be welcomed into a family home and enjoy a home cooked meal.  After dinner we will be taken back to the ryoken for the night.

 

Day 7 – Sencha Fair, Free Uji Exploration, Meditation Orientation

Senchado 1AM

Our 7th day in Japan will start with one of the highlights of our Japan tour.  We will travel to a temple just outside Uji for a once in a lifetime tea experience. The Sencha Fair is organized by the students of around 18 different tea schools.  It is a celebration of new spring tea and a special opportunity to celebrate modern and ancient Japanese tea culture.  Each school will have an area within the temple where they will showcase their special preparation techniques and skills. The Sencha Senchado 2Ceremonies (Sencha-do) are fairly similar between all the schools; however, the choice of teapot, cups, set up, style, outfit, and accompanying sweet is different for each school.  We will get to explore the different areas and participate in 3 of the Sencha-do ceremonies (including trying the loose leaf Sencha tea and sweet prepared by that particular school). This is a special event held only once a year.  We are very lucky to be able to offer this for our Japan tea tour.

Outside of the Sencha Fair, a small market is setup with vendors selling tea wares, ceremony tools, tea room decorations, snacks, sweets, and loose leaf tea.  This is not a typical tourist market.  Most items are high quality pieces that would satisfy even the most serious tea master.

 

Fair market

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After returning from the Sencha Fair, we will have some time to explore Uji on our own. The town of Uji is situated on the banks of a peaceful river lined with shops, restaurants, and shrines. Take time to stroll along the river, relax in a tea shop, visit a temple, or do some shopping.

Uji River

Japan tea tastingBefore dinner, we will have a brief meditation orientation and tea brewing demonstration.  Tomorrow we will participate in an early morning meditation session at the local Zen temple.  Because the meditation session will be early and there is no talking allowed in the meditation hall, we will review the schedule for the next morning and rules of etiquette for the meditation hall.  After the meditation orientation, we have a special tea demonstration.  We will see a unique tea ceremony developed by our Master brewer that includes tasting several different teas and showcases different brewing methods and techniques.  Our master brewer will be able to answer any and all questions you may have about Japanese tea and tea brewing.  This is a very special opportunity to have a one of a kind tea experience.  After our special demonstration, dinner will be provided at a local, traditional Japanese restaurant. This special, multi-course meal will showcase Japanese green tea in every dish!  After dinner, we will return to the ryoken for the night.

 

Uji restaurant

 

Day 8 – Temples, Tea Shops, & Kyoto exploration

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On our eighth day in Japan, we will wake up early and go directly to the local Zen Temple.  Here we will have a unique opportunity to participate in an authentic Zen meditation session led by the monks living at the temple.  This is an hour long opportunity to center ourselves, clear our minds, and find our own little bit of serenity in our busy lives.  After our Zen meditation, we will return to the ryoken for breakfast.

Zen Temple

After breakfast, we will check out and travel to Kyoto.  Once in Kyoto, we will check into our hotel and then explore some of the city’s sights.  We will visit a few different tea shops where you can stock up on loose leaf tea and Japanese tea ware and tea tools. We will also visit a unique Japanese antique shop. This Kyoto alleyis a great place to find traditional Japanese art and artifacts perfect for bringing home as gifts or as souvenirs for yourself!

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In the afternoon, we will get to explore the picturesque area of Higashiyama.  One of the few cities to survive World War II relatively untouched by bombing, Kyoto is as beautiful as it is fascinating. We will have time to explore the winding side streets, temples, and shops of this popular area of the city.

For our last night in Japan, we will have a final multi-course banquet dinner.  We will get to discuss the tour, ask any final questions, and enjoy one last dinner together.

After dinner, we will be transported back to the hotel for the night.

Fukamushi sencha

Day 9 – Departure

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Your final day in Japan will include transportation to Osaka International Airport (KIX). This concludes your tour with Little Tree Tea, but you don’t have to go home yet. Consider staying longer in Kyoto or elsewhere in Japan!

 

Learn more about what to expect traveling to Japan

 

Make a Reservation Now!

What other tea travelers have said about Little Tree’s Japan Tour:

Amazing!!

Mary P. Japan Tour 2017

Check out more pictures from previous Japan Tea Tours

 

Price:

Double Occupancy: $5,188 per person

Single traveler: $5,988 per person

 

Price includes:

All transportation in Japan

All lodging

3 meals per day

All tea ceremonies, demonstrations, classes, and factory or garden visits

Hand-made Japanese tea set

English speaking guide

 

Price does not include:

Airfare

Passport and Visa costs

Travel Insurance

Alcoholic beverages

Additional food and beverage

Exact schedule, restaurants, and hotels are subject to change.