Sipping on matcha and enjoying traditional Japanese sweets while sitting on tatami and looking out onto Japanese gardens—could it get any more, well, Japanese than that?
A tradition stretching back over 1000 years, Japan’s tea ceremony is largely associated with Kyoto, but there are plenty of stunning spots to enjoy it in Tokyo too. Believed to have been brought over from China in the 9th century, the process involves whisking matcha (green tea) powder with water and presenting it to guests in a formal and elegant ceremony. While taking part in a full ceremony with a teacher is a wonderful experience, it can be a little costly (try our experiences article here for some options) but fear not, the tea can be lovely too. Served in traditional Tokyo tea houses you can enjoy quality matcha served with wagashi—the small and delicate sweets that are often themed around the seasons. The perfect way to get a breather from a busy day out whilst still experiencing something uniquely Japanese, here are our top spots for trying tea!
Located in one of Tokyo’s oldest and most beautiful gardens, Kantoku-tei is a stunning place to enjoy tea. The Koishikawa Korakuen gardens were built in the early Edo period at one of the Tokugawa family residences and were named, like the famous Korakuen gardens in Okayama, after a famous poem entreating the lord to enjoy happiness after ensuring that of his people first.
In the traditional style, the gardens aim to recreate beautiful scenery in miniature and have a series of trails with viewpoints at which to enjoy the views. There are cherry trees, autumn leaves and seasonal flowers to enjoy throughout the year too. The tea house is close to the entrance and really reasonable, with a tea set costing only 540 yen. The surroundings are simple and you may have to share tables, but the view is a very welcome distraction.
Nearest Station: Iidabashi Station, 2 minutes | Open 9am-5pm Sunday-Monday
Nakajima No Ochaya Tea House
One of the most famous spots in Tokyo, the tea house in Hamarikyu Gardens is host to the Tokyo Grand Tea Ceremony in October every year. Open since 1704, there is a long-standing tradition of enjoying the gardens with tea, so you most definitely will not be disappointed. You can take a seat outside and look out across the water or take shelter from the heat/cold and relax inside. The tea set is around 720 yen and you have to pay 300 yen to enter the park—but the gardens and peace and quiet make it money well spent.
Nearest Station: Shiodome, Exit 19 | Open 9am – 5pm (last entry to park 4:30pm)
Sakurai Japanese Tea Experience
Pricier and far more modern than your traditional tea house, Sakurai is the place to go if you want some really high-quality tea, and lots of it. Owner Shinya Sakura studied for 12 years before opening this compact but stylish tea house and serves only the best—with all the knowledge and experience you could need. If you’re treating yourself then the tasting menu is the best option—at ¥3,800 you can try 5 different varieties of tea, made fresh in front of you. You can also order individual items from the menu which keeps costs down—and of course asking for a recommendation will be a great place to start. There is limited seating so you may be required to queue a little, but it doesn’t usually take long for seats to open up.
Nearest Station: Omotesando | Open 11am – 11pm
One of two surviving Edo period-gardens (the second is further down), Rikugi-en is a stunning example of traditional design and is home to a beautiful tea house. Near a peaceful pond is Fukiage tea house, which serves traditional matcha and wagashi sets (namagashi) for 510 yen. The outdoor seating is lovely, with traditional red parasols to protect you from the sun and views across the pond.
Nearest Station: Komagome Station | Open 9am – 5pm, park entry is 300 yen.
Shinjuku Gyoen Tea Houses
The perfect escape from Shinjuku’s busy streets, the national park is a stunning blend of Japanese and French traditional landscaping—as well as being home to two stunning tea houses. After paying your 500-yen park admission fee, you are free to roam the gardens and enjoy the views and you will soon stumble across the two tea houses—each offering traditional matcha and wagashi. Rakuutei (above) and Shoutei are located in the Japanese traditional garden alongside beautiful ponds and are a great place to stretch out on the tatami and enjoy the views. A tea set will cost around 700 yen.
Nearest Station: Shinjukugyoenmae | Open 10am – 4pm with irregular closing days.
Nestled in trendy Jiyugaoka, Kosoan is easily missed as it is tucked away on a residential street, as part of a traditional Japanese house. The search it worth it though, as you will be greeted with a beautiful traditional garden and charming tea house. With views out onto the garden and traditional tatami-seating you’ll feel instantly relaxed as you tuck into your tea set. The menus are available in English and you’ll be certain to enjoy the delicious treats provided and the warm hospitality too!
Nearest Station: Jiyugaoka Station | Open 11am – 6:30pm Thursdays – Tuesdays.