I got up at 4am (go figure), so I figured I'd add a little more.
It feels almost like a relief to spend time where tea is something both ordinary and special - we stayed with Yuki's parents, and it was so nice to wake up every day and just pour some hot water from the heater into a teapot and drink sencha with the family. Tea really is like water - they just keep a water heater (which is always full), and the house has one container filled with the house sencha - they don't have lots of different kinds of teas, just the one tin of sencha, which they drink every day, with every meal. They eyeball the leaves in the teapot, pour hot water, wait a few minutes, and pour. No timing or weighing. The water is just warm, so they leave the leaves in the pot while talking and eating and drinking. It goes quickly enough that oversteeping isn't an issue. If the family drinks it quickly, they resteep, but that usually isn't the case. They'd laugh if they saw this, how much I think about what's such an ordinary activity for them.
Really, it's making me rethink my tea here - I need to keep only the teas I drink daily (or weekly) - no more jasmine, no more flavored teas, no more variety of greens or earl greys... just one green, one good black, a good oolong, a silver needle, and a little tin of pur-eh (it keeps forever anyway). Freshness should never be an issue, and whites and greens should be changed every 6 weeks or so.
Everyone (in Nara Japan) makes tea, - and it's all loose leaf tea. No teabags. You can stop in on friends and they'll ask if you want tea. Every kitchen has a kettle, a small ceramic teapot, and a strainer or infuser or paper bags to be manually filled. You can always ask what kind of tea it is, and people are happy to tell you - what kind, when it was made. Everyone - even the grocery store tea isle has a chart of what the different greens taste like, and which regions produce which teas. It's not a special interest. Even the dollar store has a tea section of cups, infusers, and pots. I can only imagine how it must seem to someone not interested in tea, a well intentioned but unintentionally insensitive tourist or businessperson - "Wow, they really like tea here." A true understatment. Every mall has a tea shop, every downtown has a few. Japan is truly a tea drinker's paradise (a green tea drinker, I mean). Kyoto would make a great tea excursion for any enthusiast.