Green tea ceremonies can be experienced all over Japan, but there are very few places where you can experience it with a maiko or apprentice geisha. At All Japan Tours, their itineraries with Kyoto, the traditional cultural center of Japan, include this special experience.
On the trays for the clients there was a cup with matcha (powdered green tea), higashi (a dry Japanese sweet), and bamboo whisk. Before the Maiko arrived, Kimura-san gave a history lesson of matcha and how a traditional ceremony is conducted.
Kimura-san had set up a traditional stone grinder used to grind the green tea leaves into a powder state. She explained the material used to make the grinder is the same as the ones used to make the tombstones in Japan. It is a long process to make a scoop and a half of matcha powder depending on the size of the stone.
When the maiko made her entrance, she gracefully went to her seat and prepared for the tea ceremony. She greeted the guests and introduced herself as Ayaka-san to the clients. At this time everyone followed her actions and mixed their tea after eating the higashi. Afterwards she performed a folk dance about the harvest season.
Next was a nice Q&A session where they could ask her life as a maiko. Ayaka-san was the oldest maiko in her okiya (geisha boarding house) as she will soon become a full-fledge geisha next year. It was a great opportunity to learn about the life of a maiko and the training she has been going through everyday in order to become a geisha.
The last part of the experience was a game with the maiko. In this game you both tap the top of the cup with the palm of your hand. If one decides to take the cup during the exchange then the next person must make a fist and tap the table. If you lose you must drink sake or water (for children). All the while Ayaka sings the song that goes with the game. Out of all the games she did not lose. Still it was fun to see how long the guests could last against her.