Forest hike and Japanese tea ceremony

Today I wondered: what was I doing in Japan around this time four years ago? The answer did not disappoint me: I was hiking through a virgin forest and attended a field tea ceremony (nodate 野点).

Me and my aunt, who was visiting from Belgium, were invited by my lovely friends Nobuo-san and Motoko-san to go on a hike with them. Being avid hikers, they claimed to know the most beautiful spots for hiking around Toyota City. They took us to a beautiful virgin forest. It was kōyō (autumn leaves 紅葉 ) season and the light was gorgeous that day.

japanese forest
Our guides are leading the way. Seeing bamboo in a forest was very exotic to me.
japanese forest
The autumn light on the coloured leaves was spectacular.
japanese forest
Looking up the trunk of an ancient tree.

As if taking us to this precious place wasn’t enough, they surprised us with an impromptu tea ceremony in the forest. When we sat down in a clearing to have a little rest, Motoko-san started unpacking several implements that she had been carrying in her backpack. As I had no knowledge of tea ceremony at the time, we were very curious to see what all those beautiful objects were for.

nodate field tea ceremony
Motoko-san is unpacking her wares.
nodate field tea ceremony
She produced two gorgeous red chawan (tea bowls) out of her backpack, and some wagashi (Japanese sweets). The stop at the sweets shop on our way to the forest suddenly made a lot more sense.
nodate field tea ceremony wagashi
Seasonal wagashi
nodate field tea ceremony
Omnomnom. Wagashi are delicious. The bowl of tea is waiting on the bench to be drunk.

It was one of my first experiences with the Japanese tea ceremony and it made a deep impression on me. The spontaneous enjoyment of tea in that beautiful natural setting was such a special experience. That day I learned about the concepts of wabisabi (わびさび the Japanese aesthetic of transience and imperfection, perfectly embodied by the fallen leaves, the rough table and the setting in general) and ichigo ichie (一期一会 litt. ‘one time, one meeting’, indicating the preciousness of meetings with people and emphasizing that every moment and experience is unique).

Thank you Motoko-san and Nobuo-san for that once in a lifetime experience!

8 thoughts on “Forest hike and Japanese tea ceremony

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  1. I would love to know where you went hiking! I’m moving to Toyota City in May and am looking for places to explore as soon as I get there! I really am enjoying your blog and am using it as a way to begin to prepare. Thanks!

    1. I am not sure if I could find the place again. They took us there by car and it was about a 45min drive from Toyota City centre. I was considering making a Toyota City guide though, with tips for getting started as a foreigner. Maybe I’ll get cracking on that, so you can enjoy it in May. 🙂

      1. I would be so grateful if you would! I know I’ll need a push to start exploring the city since my Japanese is laughable at this point which makes me shy.

        1. Even if you just say something really simple like ‘arigato’, the Japanese will be so impressed and appreciative. As long as they see you’re doing your best, they will be very welcoming.

  2. this was your first experience? wow, what a treat to have it in a forest in the middle of autumn. judging from your photo, those are real tea ceremony chawan cups too! and the accompaniment of wagashi sweets just made it an unforgetable true tea ceremony experience. this is one of the things that make me miss japan a whole lot.

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