Updated: Nov 20, 2020
When we travelled to Japan in June 2016, experiencing the traditional Japanese tea ceremony was at the top of our list.
We arrived in Kyoto on the bullet train from Tokyo and settled into our Airbnb apartment, complete with a temple view. First thing the next morning we jumped on the bus to the city center. After a day-long walk exploring the main temples we noticed a billboard advertising tea ceremonies. Obviously we were tempted to go but it also felt a bit touristy. In the midst of hesitation we jokingly said to ourselves, this is not for us, we're going to meet a true tea master who would invite us to experience the real deal at his home. We said it and walked away comforting ourselves that if we missed out, at least we had our own great matcha.
But the Universe heard our wishes. The next day we walked to the Imperial Palace Gardens, home to a 200 year old tea house. We popped in for a look and it was open. This in itself was fortuitous as we later learned it was rarely open to the public. It was there where we bumped into our “true tea master” - Jack Convery with his wife Hiromi who also happened to be visiting this ancient tea house for the first time. We had a new matcha bowl we'd just acquired from a little back street vintage store and he had matcha, whisks and even hot water in a thermos. He cheekily persuaded us to ask the host of the tea house, Harumi, to whisk us some matcha. Completely by surprise we had an impromptu tea ritual in this beautiful Japanese tea house steeped in tradition. Needless to say one thing led to another and the next week we spent two long afternoons in Jack and Hiromi’s home immersing in the subtleties of the tea ceremony with local and foreign students of tea. It was anything but touristy - a truly priceless and authentic experience.
Jack is in fact a Canadian who has lived in Japan for over 30 years and graduated from the Urasenke School of Tea. He is a Tea Master who is practicing an ancient way of offering tea - Chado, the Way of Tea, the Way of Peace. He orchestrates his tea ceremonies in deeply philosophical and thought-provoking ways that evoke serenity and a sense of fulfillment.
In the cover photo, Jack is holding a raku matcha bowl created by Lithuanian ceramic artist Dormante Penkinski. It was our gift to Jack and Hiromi and we were thrilled to learn this bowl was much appreciated by his students who often pick it out from the collection for their ceremonies.
If you travel to Japan and happen to be in Kyoto we highly recommend joining one of Jack's tea classes at the Shotoku Academy. He can be found on: www.shotoku-an.org