Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Chagenkyo Matsuri & Teatopia Tea Festival

Teatopia Festival and Chagenkyo Matsuri is held annually in Wazuka, Japan over the first full weekend in November.  Chagenkyo is the ancient name for Wazuka and Chagenkyo Matsuri was an ancient agricultural festival.  Over the years, the festival has evolved and the current Chagenkyo Matsuri has been held for over thirty years with Teatopia becoming a central theme over the last several years thanks to the efforts of Obubu Tea Farm and others.

During a recent trip to Japan, I met up with a dear friend and fellow tea enthusiast to spend a day at the festival.  Travel from Kyoto is one hour by train and the festival provides free round trip shuttle service between Kamo Station and Wazuka Sports Park.

The courtesy shuttle dropped us off near the festival entrance and Wazuka Tea Cafe (和束茶カフェ) which sells a wide selection of locally-produced teas and festival goods.  The Cafe also serves prepared tea and dessert and staff will happily provide guidance on traditional tea preparation.

Delightful photos of Wazuka's agricultural history and people lined the festival entrance.  The path leading to the main exhibition area was filled with booths for arts and crafts, workshops, tea tour reservations, and even tea-infused foot baths.

Music and entertainment was held throughout the day on the main stage. Much of the exhibition area was filled with vendor booths selling tea from Japan and around the world, teaware, hand-crafted wares, garden-fresh local produce, and freshly prepared food, most of which were made using tea.

With the purchase of a small porcelain tasting cup, I was able to enjoy too many delicious tea samples to count.

After enjoying the music, tea, and food in the exhibition area, we walked to the Indoor/Outdoor Tea Ceremony demonstrations at Wazuka Terrace.  

At the entrance to the Terrace, we received tickets for our tea selections and were guided to our table.

Keiko, a fellow tea blogger from Kyoto, provided guidance as we enjoyed our tea and wagashi (tea sweet).  We learned that you can eat infused Okumidori tea leaves with ponzu sauce, but Tencha leaves are not good to eat.

A matcha grinding demonstration followed the tea service and I had the opportunity to give the grinder a few turns.

Tea Tours were available throughout the day with four course options and three departure times for each course.  

My friend and I joined the 1.5 miles (2.5km) Course B Tea Tour:  Tea Fields and Nara Period History.  This course took us up to the hilltop burial site of Prince Asaka (728-744), passing through tea fields, traveling up stone steps to visit Shoboji Temple, before returning to the festival grounds.

Wazuka is beautiful and Chagenkyo Matsuri was great fun!  Thanks to everyone who put so much effort into making this possible and to Keiko especially for sharing her tea knowledge! 

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