The district of Gion is incredibly vibrant – traditional, wooden, Machiya merchant homes flank the walking paths. The many alleys that sprawl all over the area, are lined with shops, restaurants and teahouses.
And during our long day spent roaming around Gion – Christina and I took part in a traditional tea ceremony – with a beautiful and giggly tea master.
Filming and photography were not allowed during her movements (that is, the making of the tea) – but I did record Christina making the tea, so that’ll have to do ey.
A tea ceremony – often done during special occasions – involves a tea master (or host of the tea ceremony) serving the guests with a bowl of fresh matcha tea.
Each movement carried out by the tea master (or host) is done to purify themselves and the tea. The objective of the entire ceremony is to establish peace and tranquillity between all present.
*FUN FACT: the tea scoop (used to transfer the matcha powder from container to cup) is actually given a name by the craftsman who carved it / often, tea masters would have a number of different tea scoops with different names – that are then used depending on occasion or season – crazy right?!?
However, Gion is better known as the most famous Geisha district in the whole of Japan.
Geisha’s are incredibly elusive – preferring to stay away from tourists, who scramble to take photos of them at any opportunity.
We saw 5 Geisha’s in our time at Gion – out of respect though, I did not take any photos of their faces. Instead capturing their graceful yet hurried movement through the crowded streets.
A common misconception is that Geisha’s are the same as prostitutes.
Geisha’s actually are hostesses within the teahouses – that entertain with conversation, dance and song. Young ladies – starting in their early teens – begin training for a 5 year period to become a geiko. In the mean time, trainees are known as maiko – identified most notably by their red collars and colourful kimono.
The beautiful and intriguing community of Geisha’s represent one of the many ways Japan has managed to maintain a balance between a nation globalizing and the rich, cultural history that forms the foundation of it.
In maintaining a thriving community where art and culture can thrive – Japan continues to pay homage to one of the longest traditions in its illustrious history.
Ryan Cheng is the founder of The 88, and is passionate about telling stories surrounding travel, culture and identity.
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