To learn Japanese traditional tea culture, we visited Kikugawa City, Shizuoka Prefecture.
The moment we felt “we have arrived at Shizuoka!!” was not when arriving destination by bullet train but seeing the extensive tea plantation from the window of the bus on the way to venue and we were impressed because acres of tea plantation was cared inch by inch.
As we arrived, we had an orientation and soon started experiencing the traditional tea rolling by hands. There, we directly learned the techniques from two of the few masters in Japan. Feeling the weight of a long history of Japanese tradition, we recognized the challenge of preserving this traditional method as it was not as easy as it looks like.
Next, we visited rice terraces, where we learned the coexistence of human and nature. We were surprised by how moderate human agricultural activities will contribute to the expansion of biodiversity. Later, we experienced driving the tea leaf cutting automobile and visiting the processing factory. At there, the automation has substituted the tea making process that used to be all manual.
Having dinner with local tea producers in the first night, we had the opportunity to listen to the problems faced by producers: such as the difficulty to pass down the tea tradition to the younger generation. We were impressed by how much efforts the producers were putting into the local community and tea tradition. Seeing those producers talking about tea and Japanese culture passionately, we felt the professionalism and work ethic straightforwardly.
On the second day, we learned how a single type of tea leaf could become diverse tea drinks. At first, it was quite unbelievable how the level of leaf damage and the time of fermentation can transform a tea leaf to black tea, oolong tea, and green tea. However, by making them on our own, we eventually understood its mechanism and enjoyed the experience.
Although it was a two-day short journey, it was more than just a trip for us, and tea became more than just tea, with the warmth of people at Kikugawa city.
(K.S. & L.Y.)