Japan Tea Tour 2024

Uji, Japan Lotus TempleJapan Tea Tour 2024

Welcome to our Japan Tea Tour 2024!  This tour includes visits to Tokyo, Shizuoka, Uji, 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.

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Tour Dates: April 23rd – May 1st, 2024

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

Itinerary in Brief:

Day 1 -Tokyo – Arrive and check into hotel

Day 2 – Tokyo – Introductory walking tour of Tokyo and Shinkansen travel to Shizuoka

Day 3 – Shizuoka – Tea Auction House, Shizuoka Tea Factory, Mountain Tea Picking, travel to Kyoto

Day 4 – Uji – Tea Picking and Tea Making, Tea Shrine, Organic Farm, Tea Tasting, Tea Dinner

Day 5 – Uji – Wazuka Tea Farms and Factories, Tea Tasting Game and Tea Blending, Home Dinner

Day 6 – Uji/Shiga/Kyoto – Zen Meditation, Ceramics Studio and Tea Bowl Making, Japanese Garden, Tea Ceremony Lesson

Day 7 – Kyoto – Free Morning in Kyoto, Wagashi Making, Higashiyama tour

Day 8 – Kyoto – Kyoto Tour, Tea Shops, Souvenir Shopping, Final Dinner

Day 9 – Kyoto – End of tour, Optional Airport Transfer or Return to Tokyo

Shrine Gate

Detailed Itinerary

-Depart home airport. All flights need to arrive in Narita Airport (NRT) April 23rd. Depending on where you are traveling from, you may need to leave your home airport on the 21st or 22nd.

Here are some ideas on what to pack.

Japan MealDay 1 – Arrival

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Upon arrival at Tokyo’s Narita Airport (NRT), you will be greeted in person and taken to your hotel in Tokyo where you can relax and unwind after your long journey.

Day 2 – Introductory walking tour of Tokyo and Shinkansen travel to Shizuoka

AM

On our first full day in Japan, we will start with a short walking tour of the neighborhood around Tokyo station.  From there we will travel from Tokyo to Shizuoka City on 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 enjoy a popular Bento Box lunch during our journey.

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Upon arrival in Shizuoka, we will transfer to our hotel with, weather permitting, views of Mt Fuji.  Here we will relax, take in the beautiful views, and prepare for our next day’s early morning.

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.

Day 3 – Tea Auction House, Shizuoka Tea Factory, Mountain Tea Picking, travel to Kyoto

AM

On our third 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. 

After our downtown tour, we will travel to a mountain tea farm to participate in the tea harvest.  Here we will have a hands on opportunity to learn how tea is made.  Weather permitting, we will be able to pick our own leaves and deliver to the tea processing factory.  We will learn about 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!  If we are lucky, we might even get a peak of Mt. Fuji, which lies just outside of Shizuoka City.

After our tea picking activity, we will travel by Shinkansen to Kyoto where we will check into our hotel and explore the neighborhood around Kyoto station.

Day 4 – Tea Picking and Tea Making, Tea Shrine, Organic Farm, Tea Tasting, Tea Dinner

AM

After enjoying breakfast in our hotel, we will travel by private bus to Uji.  Uji is where we will be staying for the next few days of the tour.  Uji is the birthplace and cultural center of Japanese tea.  After arriving in Uji, we will be taken to our Ryoken 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.

Once in Uji, we will get right into our tea activities.  First we will visit a family run tea factory where we can help with the tea harvest, tour the factory, and enjoy a unique tea leaf tempura snack! 

From there, we will visit another, more modern tea factory producing some of the best tea in
Japan.  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.

These two factories will showcase the wide range of tea makers in Japan.  Traditional vs modern, hand made vs. technologically advanced.

After our factory visits we will visit Uji’s tea shrine honoring the history and tradition of tea in central Japan.  This modest, yet unique shrine is a must stop for tea pilgrams the world over.

PM

After out shrine visit, we will travel to yet another tea farm, this one however is a completely organic tea farm and factory.  Here you will get to see how organic tea differs from conventional, and the intricacies of organic tea processing.

After our organic farm visit, we will have some free time to explore Uji.  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.  The famed Uji Tea Street is a pedestrian shopping street chock full of tea shops and ceramics retailers.  We can stroll around browsing the local wares and enjoy a delicious Matcha ice cream cone!  After enjoying Uji’s Tea Street, we will meet at a local restaurant by the river for dinner and a tea lecture.

Japan tea tasting

Before dinner, we will have tea brewing lecture and demonstration.  We will see a unique tea ceremony developed by our Master brewer that includes tasting several different teas and showcasing 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 5 – Uji – Wazuka Tea Farms and Factories, Tea Tasting Game and Tea Blending, Home Dinner

AM

After breakfast at the Ryoken, we will go back out to explore more tea fields.  We will travel to Wazuka, which lies in the country side right outside Uji.  We will first visit a local organic 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.

We will also visit a roasting factory.  Here we will learn about different specialty teas (like Kamairicha, Kyobancha, or Hojicha) that involve pan heating and/or roasting.  These teas are very different than the green, vegetal Japanese green teas that most people are use to.  The roasting aroma in this factory is magical.

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After our roasting 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 6 – Uji/Shiga/Kyoto – Zen Meditation, Ceramics Studio and Tea Bowl Making, Japanese Garden, Tea Ceremony Lesson

AM

On our sixth day in Japan, we will start early with a morning Zen meditation session.  We will walk from our ryoken to a temple just next door where we will participate in their Sunday morning open meditation.   This is a great way to center yourself and prepare for another great day.  This zazen meditation requires quietly sitting still on a cushion on small platform in the meditation hall for about 30 minutes with a small break in the middle.  This special Japanese Zen experience is optional, but highly recommended! After meditation, we will return to the ryoken for breakfast, after which 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.  We will also have an opportunity to make our own hand-made tea bowl.

houzan station

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After our ceramics studio tour, we will stop for lunch at a famous Wagashi producer.  Here we will learn about Wagashi, traditional Japanese sweets made specifically to be served with tea and during the Japanese tea ceremony.  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.  This wagashi factory grows many of the fruits that are used in their sweets.  After a short tour, we will have lunch and participate in a tea ceremony involving their famous sweets!

After our wagashi lesson and tea ceremony, we will 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 (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. A must for any exploration of Japanese tea!

After our tea ceremony lesson, we will travel by private bus to Kyoto, where we will check into our hotel.

Day 7 – Kyoto – Free Morning in Kyoto, Wagashi Making, Higashiyama tour

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On our seventh day, you will have some free time to explore Kyoto on your own.  You can explore the streets and lanes of one of Japan’s most beautiful cities, do some shopping, try some local snacks, or simply sleep in and enjoy the hotel.

PM

We will regroup in the afternoon for a Wagashi making DIY activity.   We will visit a traditional Japanese confectionery shop in central Kyoto.  Here we will get to make our own Wagashi sweets.  With the help of an experienced teacher, you will get to challenge your creative side by making intricate and beautiful mochi sweets that you can bring home to use in your own tea ceremony!

After our wagashi making class, we will travel by foot to the Higashiyama area of Kyoto.  This neighborhood lies on the gentle hillside east side of the Kamo River.  We will enjoy a guided tour of the centuries old narrow streets, abundant temples, ceramics stores, and tea houses.

Day 8 – Kyoto – Kyoto Tour, Tea Shops, Souvenir Shopping, Final Dinner

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Our 8th day in Japan we will explore more of Kyoto.  We will set out first to explore some of the more famous tea shops in this ancient city.  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 have a guided tour of Teramachi St.  This famous shopping street in Kyoto is a great place to stock up on souvenirs and Japanese curios.

PM

After our tea shop and shopping tour, we will have some free time to explore Kyoto before meeting back up for dinner.

For our last night in Japan, we will have a final group 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 – End of tour, Optional Airport Transfer or Return to Tokyo

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Your final day in Japan will include breakfast at the hotel.  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!

We are also happy to arrange transportation back to Tokyo or Kansai Airport in Osaka (additonal fees may aply)

Learn more about what to expect traveling to Japan

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

Amazing!!

Mary P. Japan Tour 2017

The tour was an investment for me but I felt it was worth every penny.

Tea Traveler Japan Tour 2017

I thought the tour was fantastic. Very well organized and well researched. LOTS of tea education.

Tea Traveler Japan Tour 2017

Thank you for such a wonderful experience! I still have a hangover from our tour! I miss not only the place and the activities we did, but also the company i was with!

Sharee Japan Tour 2017

Everything was just perfect!

Sharee Japan Tour 2017

Excellent! I learned a lot every day

Paola M. Japan Tour 2017

Loved the Japan Tea Tour! Totally recommended!! I´ve tried other tea tours in Asia and this is the absolute best!

Paola M. Japan Tour 2017

Had a great time on the Japan Tea Tour. Matthew and Kristen were great. Would travel again with them.

Dan P. Japan Tour 2017

Check out more pictures from previous Japan Tea Tours

Make a Reservation Now!

Price:

Early Bird Pricing – Prices increase Dec 15th

Double Occupancy: $4,980 per person $4,700

Single traveler: $5,780 per person $5,500

Price includes:

All transportation in Japan

All lodging

Most meals

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

Hand-made Japanese tea set

Selection of Japanese Tea

English speaking guide

Price does not include:

Airfare

Passport and Visa costs

Travel Insurance

Alcoholic beverages

Additional food and beverage

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