Visiting Japan in March


Culture, language, tangibles, intangibles from countries known for tea

Visiting Japan in March

Postby BrooklynBrew » Dec 18th, '12, 12:53

I am planning on visiting Japan in March. I will be in Tokyo for a week and Kyoto for another week.

I am interested in acquiring some tea while I am there. Also I have never had matcha, so I think I'll buy myself a chawan and a chasen. I would also like to do a tea ceremony somewhere.

My budget is not huge and my chawan and chasen don't have to be artisinal. If anyone has any suggestions on places that offer the most bang for the buck in both Kyoto and Uji, I'd appreciate it. I would definitely like to buy some matcha and gyokuro. I hear the hojicha from Kyoto is really good too. But also open to getting sencha and kukicha if there are some I should definitely check out.

(Also, suggestions for cafes or places to sit with a cup both in Kyoto and Tokyo would be great).
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Re: Visiting Japan in March

Postby Chip » Dec 18th, '12, 13:38

You should definitely check out Tsuen and Ippodo while there!!!

Where to buy wares while there ... I will leave that to someone else with more experience with the locals. There are a lot of touristy places where you would likely pay too much for what you actually get (tea and wares). But certainly worth a walk through nevertheless.
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Re: Visiting Japan in March

Postby BrooklynBrew » Dec 18th, '12, 13:47

Ippodo is definitely on my list!

Love their website and their prices look decent.
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Re: Visiting Japan in March

Postby Chip » Dec 18th, '12, 13:54

I hear their staff is very friendly!

Tsuen is the oldest running tea shop in Japan ... single family. I forget exact numbers, but 700+ years and 23ish generations.
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Re: Visiting Japan in March

Postby JBaymore » Dec 18th, '12, 15:50

If you are in Kyoto, there is so much to see and do that you need to live there for a lifetime. I return to Kyoto every time I am in Japan (which is a lot over the years) and am always exploring new aspects. Kyoto is wonderful.

You for sure want to visit the Kiyomizudera (Kiyomizu Temple) area. It is where a large concentration of potters and pottery shops are located. Easy to get to via city bus. Walking up the hill from the usual bus stop toward the Temple, the two main streets headed up the hill are lined with all sorts of small shops (a bit touristy for sure) selling everything from tourist-schlock pottery to the work of some Living National Treasures.

There are a few antique shops there as well. But they know what things are worth... so don't expect to find an overlooked amazing bargain.

It will give you a huge assortment of types and quality of wares and range of price points to look at. You can find decent functional mass produced chawan in the US $50-60 range..... and then you can also spend something like US $15,000 on a piece by a LNT. As they say... you get what you pay for.

But buying it right in Japan and not acquiring the shipping costs allows you to get "more" within your total budget range; it is all going to ward the piece.

The Raku Museum is located in Kyoto. Hard to find if you don't speak Japanese a bit.... but doable. Well worth the time to find it.

In general, teawares in Kyoto are more highly priced in more formal "galleries" and tea shops than you might find elsewhere. Kyoto is the cultural capital of Japan... and the "high taste" impacts pricing a bit.

Uji for tea itself.

best,

.................john
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Re: Visiting Japan in March

Postby BrooklynBrew » Dec 18th, '12, 17:26

Thanks, John!

I'm trying to price my shopping for souvenirs. I'm also a fountain pen user and there are some inks I want to get ... as well as tea stuff so trying to balance out my two obsessions! :)

The pottery shops sound wonderful. I will definitely give those a look!
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Re: Visiting Japan in March

Postby rdl » Dec 18th, '12, 21:07

a few suggestions for tea, to buy or to drink:
i didn't make it here but wanted to very much:
http://www.japanesefoodreport.com/2007/ ... o-tea.html

http://www.kyoto-teramachi.or.jp/horaid ... mation.htm
Horaido
Teramachi Shijo agaru
Nakagyo-ku Kyoto Japan
Tel 81 +75- 221-1215
Fax 81 +75- 213-2502
E-mail horaido@kyoto-teramachi.or.jp
*He is closed on a particular Sunday each month (second Sunday I think)

http://www.fukujuen-kyotohonten.com/english/floor.html
*Fukujuen
Shijo Tominokoji, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-city, Kyoto 600-8005 Japan
Closed: on January 1st, Every 3rd Wednesday except November

Marukyu-Koyamaen Uji
Nishinotoin Tea House Kyoto
http://www.marukyu-koyamaen.co.jp (near Nijo castle)

one piece of advice. Kyoto is a large busy city and travel time by bus or on foot can take up lots of your visit. if you don't travel by taxi or in a tour or private car, you should try to plan as best in advance. it takes away the spontaneity but in Kyoto with so much to do i found it more rewarding.

good luck and enjoy!

enjoy your trip.
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Re: Visiting Japan in March

Postby edkrueger » Dec 18th, '12, 22:10

Tea in Uji is really easy. I'd highly suggest Tokichi which is between the train stop and Byodoin (which you will need to go to in Uji). Closer to Byodoin there are tons of tea shops. A little out of the way is a tea center which is touristy, but fun.
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Re: Visiting Japan in March

Postby BrooklynBrew » Dec 19th, '12, 11:35

Thanks so much guys!

I'm relatively unschooled with Japanese tea . . . and my forays into it are basically Maeda-En loose sencha, hojicha, genmaicha and kikucha ... which are all fine every day teas for me. So it was a surprise to find out about Uji and that I was going to be so close to it. It was a no brainer for me to decide to go.

Also would be fun to window shop the pottery even if beyond my price range. I love wabi sabi and seeing it in the pottery is just breathtaking!
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Re: Visiting Japan in March

Postby David R. » Dec 20th, '12, 14:22

Teramachi-dori is a great place to see teaware. What I like to do is to go to the south-east corner of the Imperial Palace Gardens. There you take Teramachi-dori southbound. Enjoy the show from there... You should see quite a few antiques shops with some decent teaware and pass by Ippodo on your left (can't miss it). When reaching the town hall, you can cross over and access the covert shopping arcade with lots a shops to bring back presents. At the end of it, you will find Horaido on the right. Just before it on your right, you'll have a chance to see the Nishiki food alley which is really worth seeing.

This is a great walk which can take you half an hour if you just walk without stopping (impossible), or half a day or more if you are like me... :mrgreen:

If the weather is fine, just walk the streets of Kyoto. It is imho the best way to discover this incredible city.
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Re: Visiting Japan in March

Postby SlientSipper » Mar 15th, '13, 06:31

BrooklynBrew wrote:Thanks so much guys!

I'm relatively unschooled with Japanese tea . . . and my forays into it are basically Maeda-En loose sencha, hojicha, genmaicha and kikucha ... which are all fine every day teas for me. So it was a surprise to find out about Uji and that I was going to be so close to it. It was a no brainer for me to decide to go.

Also would be fun to window shop the pottery even if beyond my price range. I love wabi sabi and seeing it in the pottery is just breathtaking!



I love Love LOVE Uji!
Did you visit Tai-Ho-An?
Best Matcha Ever!
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Visiting Japan in March

Postby Abracadaver! » Mar 15th, '13, 20:24

This might sound strange to us western era, but you can see some amazing pottery exhibitions in department stores. Definitely take some time to check a few out while in Tokyo. There is also a shop in Shibuya (I forget the name) that specializes in Chinese tea and teaware.

Also, be sure to stop in at Kyukyodo (or one of their counters in a department store). They make some of my favorite incense which is fairly difficult to find in the states.
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Visiting Japan in March

Postby Abracadaver! » Mar 15th, '13, 20:26

"Westerners" I mean.
Also, please make the time to visit Robert Yellin's gallery while in Kyoto (you might want to contact him in advance).
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Re: Visiting Japan in March

Postby JBaymore » Mar 15th, '13, 22:55

Abracadaver! wrote:"Also, please make the time to visit Robert Yellin's gallery while in Kyoto (you might want to contact him in advance).


+1

best,

...........john
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Re: Visiting Japan in March

Postby BrooklynBrew » Mar 29th, '13, 11:41

Hey guys,

I got back a week ago. It was a really amazing and enchanting trip.

Teawise, I was surprised how hard it was to get in Tokyo. I pretty much drank coffee or the occasional matcha latte at Starbucks (for the WiFi). Yeah, there was really awful bancha everywhere I went restaurant wise, but I was really disappointed.

Kyoto was another story. I didn't end up going to Uji because I was worried that I wouldn't get to see everything I wanted in Kyoto and the Phoenix Hall was shut down for renovations for a couple years. I drank lots of matcha in all the temples or gardens that offered it. I also hit Ippodo twice (had their matcha, gyokuro and sencha) and purchased a couple tins of matcha from them, some gyokuro, and some sencha. The ladies there were THE BEST. They taught me how to brew green tea Japanese style and were excited when I said I was from New York because of Ippodo opening there. They answered so many of my questions and made suggestions on teas to purchase.

I then went to Horaido which was a total nightmare of miscommunication. I had a list of things I wanted to buy. Among them were some gyokuro and a kyusu. In my mind the two were unrelated but the gentleman who runs Horaido (I can't seem to find his name online) began to lecture me on how to properly brew gyokuro and that a kyusu was the wrong vessel. I immediately got intimidated because I am a novice with Japanese greens. And then when I told him how much I wanted to pay for gyokuro (which was around $25 which, I know is not a lot for gyokuro, but for me it's a treat . . . I don't think I've ever spent that much on tea before) he made some comment about how that won't get me much. I think this was a "lost in translation" moment but I was already intimidated and just wanted to run out of the store, completely embarrassed and ashamed. So I just said I wanted a matcha and a gyokuro and a chashaku . . . which in my complete and total brain fart moment came out as "chasen" and I think my fate was sealed. When I tried to make conversation with him about his teas coming from Uji and how I was planning on visiting Uji but decided to stay in Kyoto, he just began playing on his smartphone and had his wife ring me up. I think this was just a wrong day for both of us, but it was really upsetting considering it was an atypical experience re: customer service in Japan for me. I'm also not a stereotypical American tourist. Many a time I preferred to struggle with Japanese one word at a time, apologizing and bowing throughout.

Then I hit this gentleman's store: http://www.japanesefoodreport.com/2007/ ... o-tea.html since I read his houjicha was so good according to that article. I loved him. He didn't speak a word of English and I was telling him I read about him on the Internet and he got so excited and happy and I tried to show him the article on my phone, but I couldn't get a WiFi signal. He was just amazing. And he assured me his houjicha wasn't made out of bancha (I have no idea what else houjicha is made out of, but I haven't tried the tea yet to report).

Finally, I hit Marukyu-Koyamaen, where I had a delicious sencha (and they gave me a taste of another sencha they had on hand which was AMAZING). I got more sencha there and a gyokuro kukicha which I was hooked on thanks to the hotel I was staying in (they had a cannister with gyokuro kukicha in the common area for guests to drink and I made myself a kyusu of that every morning for breakfast).

I also hit the raku museum and oohed and aaahed. I did get a cheap clay kyusu and a houhin for my gyokuro and some large and small cups. Nothing fancy. Just stuff I liked. I didn't get a chawan because of course the ones I loved were $300+ and I find I prefer to drink my matcha in a smaller bowl. But I loved the raku and maybe I'll search for a local potter who makes chawans (I've seen some on Etsy) that will give me a bowl with some character that doesn't cost THAT much.

I also went to the tea ceremony at En. I was worried it would be too touristy, but I wanted to ask questions in English and I was able to do that and get information about the ceremony I may not have gotten otherwise.

I already miss Japan and I am ordering shinchas this year for the first time. Tokyo and Kyoto were already in bloom when I went and I hit so many gorgeous temples and gardens and had some incredible food and sake. I cannot wait to go back.
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