Snow Again❄️

Second time snow settles in central Kyoto. Not as much as last month, but please be careful for the slippery cobble stone. 

 

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We have a word in Japanese, 'San-kan Shi-on' literally means 'Three-cold, four-warm' It means we enjoy the transition of winter to spring by having a few days of warm weather in a week to three warm days following by four warm days, then it becomes spring. 

 

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Yes, spring is coming! 

Paul Crouse Radio Show

I've got an opportunity to speak about tea ceremony and its spiritual aspects on radio.  

 

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I met Paul about 4 years ago in our mutual friend's restaurant in Kyoto. He has visited Camellia taking his friends several times for tea ceremony and we found another thing in common. He was one of the English teachers while I was a student at an English school in Osaka! And my teacher at that time is his best friend! What a co-incident. After almost 20 years later, we finally met in Kyoto.

 

He struggled with his habit of drinking and he got over it by his spiritual method. I also had some difficult time in my life and got over it by devoting myself with tea ceremony. Now Paul works as a life-coach and a spiritual instructor.

 

I hope you enjoy listening to it :) 

 http://paulcrouse.com/blog/listen-to-paul-crouse-radio-show-27-japanese-tea-ceremony

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Shooting the trailer lol

雪-yuki, snow☃️

In Kyoto, summer is super hot and winter is terribly cold. TRUE. I believe a lot of you have been here are nodding right now :) I'm living in Kyoto for about 7 years and yes, it's freezing and bonus! snow settles every year. Where I came from is just an hour drive, south-east of Osaka is also surrounded by mountains, but it never does. I sent some photos to my mum this morning and she was amazed.

 

 

Right, time to do some work for customers! Ninenzaka community has a tight connection and we all got up early to clean the street. By 10:00 AM, we are all ready!

I made a tea ceremony snowman but of course, all the buses and taxis are behind the schedule. Hmm, OK I want to share this gorgeous view to the world!

 

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See you soon in Kyoto! 

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Matcha Grinding experience!

At Fukujuen in Uji central, you can grind some matcha into powder by stone-mill and drink it super freshly right away!

 

Located in the other side bank of Byodo-in temple, very quiet area. 

Located in the other side bank of Byodo-in temple, very quiet area. 

You don't need to reserve, just hop in, pay 1200 yen per person and go to the room. 

 

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Beautiful Mikage black stone and Ten-cha(matcha before ground)  

Beautiful Mikage black stone and Ten-cha(matcha before ground)  

You must turn counter-clockwise. There's a mechanism in the mill. With 96 lines each, the powder is finer than flour. 

Simple and perfect, as any other Japanese beauty. 

Simple and perfect, as any other Japanese beauty. 

You make one turn by 3 seconds, not too fast. Heat damages the tea leaves and it gets bitter.

 

After in a 20-minute work, you can have about (only?) 3 grams of beautiful matcha!

 

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Sieve and let's enjoy it with a nice sweet😊 

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It was a very smooth matcha. Apparently it's 3000 yen per 20g! Really high quality! 

 

The tea shop is called Fukujuen. You can find their Kyoto branch on Shijo-street and small shops in department stores, Kansai airport and everywhere for bottled tea.

 

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If you have any chance to visit Uji, please cross the bridge and check out this whole-tea house. Cheers, Atsuko

 

Enjoy!  

Enjoy!  

Midnight Strolling in Fushimi Inari shrine

'Hatsumode' means the first visit to a shrine/temple in a new year. In Kyoto, the famous Fushimi Inari and Kiyomizu temple are the top destination. For the Japanese, it's very sacred to welcome a New Year. We clean all over the house, decorate the front door with ear of rice and tangerine, some pine trees so that Gods will stop by and join a celebration, and we cook a huge amount of dishes in order not to work for a few days.

 

Osechi, a special New Year food

Osechi, a special New Year food

About half an hour before midnight, temples start to ring their bells for 108 times. 108 is the number of greed in Buddhism. One bell rings, one greed goes away.., then 108th, you are purified and ready to welcome a new year.

 

We say 'Akemashite Omedeto-gozaimasu' Happy New Year in Japanese, as a greeting when you meet people for the first time in the new year until 15th January. So we are still in celebrating time!

 

We visit temples and shrines to greet Buddha/Gods to ask for their protection for the year. Best on the 1st January but as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I was super busy and finally, on the 9th day, had a chance to pay a visit. At midnight.

 

A bit eerie but best without crowd.  

A bit eerie but best without crowd.  

You are literally alone. 

You are literally alone. 

This is how to pray at a shrine. 

1. Two bows (show respect) 

2. Two claps (saying 'hey God, please listen to me!)

3. Silently pray (they understand any language, but say it simply)

4. One bow (thank God for listening to you) 

 

What was your New Year resolutions? We look forward to seeing you at Camellia! 

 

-Atsuko

 

Momiji-gari, autumn foliage hunting

Another gorgeous season in Kyoto has come. The whole city and mountains around change the colours from pink in spring, green in summer and now red, yellow and orange.

 

We call 'hanami (flower viewing)' for cherry blossoms, and we say 'momiji-gari (autumn foliage hunting)' for maple trees. 

 

So, to escape from the bustling cenre city, I visited Kaju-ji (勧修寺) in Yamashina-Ward. It's about 30 minute subway ride from Kyoto. 

 

Established 900AD, rebuilted about 500 years ago, the temple belongs to Shingon Buddhism sect. Well-preserved under imperial court, you can enjoy the scenery all year round. Most notably, full of lotus flower in the lake during summer. 

 

 

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Gyokuro Tea Picking -chatsumi

It was a lovely sunny day out during a Golden Week, away from a bustling city centre in a small town of Uji, there is a tea producer called Hattori.

The owner, Hattori-san, is a cheerful old man and told me that he is the only one in Japan who let tourists to pick up Gyokuro-tea, so people from Shizuoka also come and try.

First, he poured his first flush of Gyokuro. Oh it was sweet and mild. He told me the history of green tea in Japan and how to make tea, which.., I didn't say but I already knew ;)

Then he showed his factory of processing tea.

Then three more machines to rub and dry.

Getting smaller...

Second rubbing

Final rubbing

Voila!

These are done in a few hours. Always the freshness is important. Now to the field!

Gyokuro is as high quality as Matcha. Trees are very well-taken care of. Covering the whole field with the black sheet is to prevent the direct sunlight, not to burn the leaves.

You have to find fresh young leaves. The dark ones are already too old for Gyokuro.

I personally love to do simple tasks. You can completely concentrate and devote yourself into it. I'm from a grape farming family and yes I do enjoy field works. It's in my blood :)

Rarely you can see the tea blossom. You see why it's camellia too :)

An hour work and got one basket full!

We received a pack of their first flush and tried at home. Aah, good!

If you find kanji says 新茶 in a tea shop, it means first flush leaf tea. Don't forget to try one, only this time of the year!

Jumping from the Stage of Kiyomizu??

Have you been to Kiyomizu temple and stood on the wide stage in front of the main building? 

Since it's really high and the Buddha(eleven-faced Kannon) in Kiyomizu has been believed that she makes any of your wishes come true, some time in Edo period(1603-1868) we started to say 'Jump from the Stage of Kiyomizu' when you make a big wish.

Well actually, by recent investigation on a Samurai's diary, there are 234 people really jumped out. Seriously?! It's 12 metres high, like 4th floor of a building. In fact, 85% were alive and 70% were women, mostly 10s to 20s, the oldest was 80 years old!

One of the jumping was described as this: Around 16:00 on 15th April 1704, 19-year-old girl named Kiwa, a niece of Seibei the oil marchant, jumped but safe, then she stood up and started to walk away. When she was stopped and asked the reason, she replied "I did it for my husband."

Can you?

BEST matcha from Chikiriya-chaho Tea Shop

A lot of times we are honoured to receive a complement 'The best green tea ever'  Wonder where I got our great matcha? I'd like to proudly introduce our tea shop Chikiriya-chaho.

Entrance. Tea is pouring! How does it work?!

Entrance. Tea is pouring! How does it work?!

As it is acknowledged, tea from Uji(Kyoto) is the best in Japan. Any tea shops in Kyoto basically have Uji tea. What's the difference? I must say it depends on your taste, but I think Shizuoka tea is a bit bitter and I like Chiran(Kagoshima) tea as well as Uji. It's more like 'brand' so even though Blue Mountain coffee is said to be the best, I prefer Arabica. You can choose any taste you like.

Although, having said that, it's hard to find one while you are in Japan for a few weeks. It took me three years living in Kyoto to meet Chikiriya-chaho. So if you liked the matcha at Camellia, this is your destination! And our webshop if you missed getting one ;)

They have not only matcha, but also various of green tea!

They have not only matcha, but also various of green tea!

Samples of tea. You can try smelling for each tea leaves like Sencha, Hojicha, Genmaicha... The highest rank of Gyokuro is.., ooh must be superb!

Samples of tea. You can try smelling for each tea leaves like Sencha, Hojicha, Genmaicha... The highest rank of Gyokuro is.., ooh must be superb!

The most important thing for matcha is freshness. They keep matcha as tea leaves and grind into powder everyday, so we can always present freshly ground matcha at Camellia. Beautiful green and the fragrance came from their devotion to provide a good tea.

Even nowadays, matcha is ground into powder with a stone-mill

Even nowadays, matcha is ground into powder with a stone-mill

Now, let me introduce the owner of Chikiriya-chaho!

Look at his friendly smile! Now the tea is more tasty and makes you smile too ;) The shop is located near Karasuma-Oike station, on the corner of Rokkaku-Higashinotoin, in between a bike shop and a ryokan called Kazuki. They also have a cafe, you can enjoy matcha softcream, matcha parfait, and more! Their matcha castella is amazing too!

Camellia's Online Store is opening soon!

It's been asked many times how our customers are get to buy our delicious tea. Since our tea provider does not speak English and it's a very small shop beloved by neighbours, it's high time we open online store to fulfill your tongue. You can't go back once you know the best one ;)

Here's the first lineup: Matcha powder, tea whisk, tea spoon and Camellia's original tea bowl.

Also, another strong request we've been receiving is to give a tea ceremony experience as a gift to friends visiting Kyoto! Such a lovely thought!

You can now buy a ticket online with Paypal, and book a date with us via email. It's changeable(non-refundable) and valid forever! 

Be looking forward to it opening in a few days!

Kyoto sweets - Toraya

Not only water, we can also prepare special sweets upon request. Today, we had a private group and they asked something 'summer' with tea. Our solution was this;

Cute! isn't it? It's named '若葉蔭 wakaba-kage' from Toraya. Wakaba means fresh green leaves and kage means shade. You can imagine the feeling when you find a shade under a tree in a heating summer day. It's made of 'kohaku(amber).' When we make jelly, we use agar(寒天 kanten) instead of gelatine in Japan. It looks cool and we can enjoy the decoration inside. This one has a little gold fish and a green maple leaf, just like it's swimming in a river.

Too cute to eat the little guy!

Too cute to eat the little guy!

Toraya has more than 500 years of history in Kyoto. It was established latter 16th century and they've made sweets for Royal family. You can still get sweets with very traditional design from 17th century at the shops. This Wakaba-kage is quite 'new' and it's designed in 1918, the year of Taisho 7. 

You can also enjoy with matcha tea at their cafes. I often go to Toraya Ichijo shop near the Imperial Palace. It has a beautiful garden and I do recommend it. There are in Tokyo and Paris too! Check here.

Please feel free to ask any special request, we are happy to make you smile:)

Japanese tradition about number - 陰陽 Yin and Yang

陰陽, Yin and Yang means the shady side and the sunny side. It's the principal of Taoism.

Taoism is also deeply connected with the tea ceremony. In terms of number, Yin is even and Yang is odd. We prefer odd numbers because you can't split into two. Even if we receive four guests, we prepare five sweets on a tray. If we want to use the same designed or coloured utensils, we put three of them rather than two.

This thought is also taken in our daily life. When you buy some rice bowls, one set comes with five bowls. When you prepare some money for celebration, especially for wedding, the number of bills you put in a envelope must be odd number, e.g., 20 000 yen should be a 10 000 note and two 5 000 notes. This shows you hope they will not split.

When the odd number is doubled, even better. Some days of a year are traditionally cerebrated in Japan. 1st January, New Year's Day. 3rd March, Girls Day. 5th May, Boys Day. 7th July, Star Festival. 9th September, Choyo(double Yang). How about your birthday? 

Welcome to the land where we still keep tradition from a 1 000 years ago!

Fresh Groundwater from Yasaka Shrine

Today we welcomed a group that could not drink tea for their religious reason from Uncover Japan. The tea ceremony experience without drinking tea.., hmm, that doesn't sound fun for my guests. Then, Uncover Japan's owner Mandy-san and I came up with a great solution. 御神水(go-shin-sui), means the god's water.

 

One of the most important shrines in Kyoto and the God of this area is Yasaka. As Kyoto is famous for high quality water, you can pick up fresh groundwater from some wells around the city and because of this quality, Kyoto is also popular for good tofu, sake and of course the centre of the tea ceremony.

Me, taking the water at Yasaka shrine

Me, taking the water at Yasaka shrine

You must boil it once, but the water tastes soft and round, it really changes the taste of tea! With this water, the tea in your hands is completed to be blended with real nature.

 

We are happy to offer tea with go-shin-sui anytime upon request! Please call/email us at least one day in advance.

Things to do in Kyoto -making wagashi-

Last autumn and a few weeks ago, I visited Kanshun-do in Shichijo. Oh this will be my regular seasonal plan, making beautiful and tasty wagashi! 

You will be warmly welcomed with flowers and amazing calligraphy.

You will be warmly welcomed with flowers and amazing calligraphy.

table is also decorated with sweets!

table is also decorated with sweets!

You wash your hands and take a seat, closer to the master is better;) He gives you a paper of today's wagashi to make with names and explanation (in English). Now the course begins!

You can make three moist sweets and one dry sweet. Just as if you go back to a kindergarten and play with dough, you carefully curve and cut, blend colours and make shapes of flowers and leaves. The master's hands show a magic. He moves his fingers and tools rhythmically and tenderly, and voila, a jewel appears!

tools and balls of bean paste

tools and balls of bean paste

Here, this is my little creation, Azalea (Tsutsuji)!

We can enjoy one sweet you make with a bowl of matcha green tea afterwards!

We can enjoy one sweet you make with a bowl of matcha green tea afterwards!

甘春堂東店 - Kanshun-do, Higashi-mise -

2 160 yen per person, takes 1 hour 15 minutes for four kinds of wagashi and a tea

starts everyday at 11:00, 13:00, 15:00

You need to make a reservation in advance. I was lucky to get seats just a day before, but no guarantee for such short notice. Please be careful, there are two shops nearby, so you have to go one near Hokoku shrine, not by the river. 

http://www.kanshundo.co.jp/museum/make/annai_e.htm

There is another branch in Arashiyama too.

Have fun!

The master specially made a Kitty for me!

Tea Beer??!!

One really hot day in Kyoto, in a tea ceremony room... Wait, what?!

What did I just see?! The tea master says 'Yeah, it must have been terribly hot outside, right?'

Y..yeah. 

Cha(tea) Beer - Made from green tea leaves from Kyoto, Wazuka region

Cha(tea) Beer - Made from green tea leaves from Kyoto, Wazuka region

My friend, Muragishi-san took years to perfect the brewing of this delicious beer from green tea. The fact that he actually grows tea trees himself shows his passion for green tea.

Cha Beer website: http://wazuka-tea-beer.com


You can purchase one at Camellia for 1,000 yen a bottle. Great souvenir for beer lovers!

Tea Flower; Miyako Wasure

Binomial name: Gymnaster savatieri, a kind of chrysanthemum is one of seasonal flowers suitable for tea room from May to June.

Miyako means Kyoto, and it implies when it was the capital of the country. Wasure(ru) means to forget.

 

The name came from a story of Emperor Juntoku when he was exiled to Sado Island after a war, this flower made him feel at home and he could ease his pain of missing Kyoto.

With this origin, this flower is used in occasions of brief separation or momentary relaxation.

miyakowasure