A ‘must-do’ when you visit Matsue: Japanese tea ceremonies

Experiencing Japanese culture can be costly at times, but there is no way you can leave Matsue without experiencing sado, or Japanese tea ceremony! Let us introduce you to affordable yet legitimate tea ceremony experiences around Matsue.


A quick overview to the history of Sado in Matsue

Lord Fumai

Japanese tea ceremony is deeply rooted in Matsue citizens’ lives due to Lord Fumai, a daimyo who ruled Matsue in the 18th century. Lord Fumai mastered sado and zen, going on to rule his territory by living a frugal and simple life, both of which were values that he attained by the two arts. He also had a keen sense of seeking beautiful art, particularly sado equipment, and published studies on Japanese tea ceremony.

Fumai’s efforts in bringing the government’s expenditure down helped the city of Matsue prosper and ultimately led to the citizens’ strong support for Fumai. Tea ceremony also flourished across Matsue as Fumai allowed regular citizens to conduct sado ceremonies among themselves. This finally created a deeply rooted sado culture among Matsue citizens, which still continues today.

Matcha and Matsue

Whipping up matcha at a tea ceremony

What do you know about Matcha? You might have seen it or tasted it at your local Starbucks, or with Japanese cuisine in the form of frappes and ice cream. Matcha bars are all the rage in New York City nowadays (so I’ve heard), with scientific research showing that matcha is able to lower cholesterol and fight cancer among many other healthy effects.

Matcha is actually green tea leaves ground into fine powder. In Japanese tea ceremony, the masters pour the powder and hot water into a bowl, and whisk it up until a frothy cup of matcha is made. Kind of like cocoa in a sense. Matcha is very bitter and is normally consumed with Japanese sweets just before enjoying the drink. This is where the beautiful Japanese confectionery, wagashi comes in.

A tea ceremony at a family gathering

WAGASHI: an art so beautiful and ever-changing

Wagashi, literally meaning Japanese confectionery, is served right before the matcha. These come in all different shapes and sizes, and their beautiful appearances attract fans from all over the world. Not only does wagashi serve as a cushion for the bitter matcha, but also as a seasonal reminder to those attending the tea ceremony.

Think fashion. Fashion designers send out their clothing before the season arrives, like spring coats on display in winter. Wagashi is similar in the sense that, “seasonal” confectionery is offered right before the actual season begins.

Wagashi are all hand-made. You have to spend your entire life making wagashi in order to achieve all the skills needed to become a top wagashi artisan, especially because these are forms of art and not just everyday sweets. Savor every moment when eating wagashi, because it only lasts for a few seconds!


So where do I experience these tea ceremonies and wagashi?

Looking for a place to have a casual tea ceremony? Here are some shops that offer matcha and wagashi:

Gesshouji : Literally meaning moonshine temple, this temple was built to rest Lord Fumai and his family’s remains after their deaths. Gesshouji offers matcha and Furyudo’s wakakusa.


The old turtle at Gesshouji

Take the Matsue Lake Line bus and get off at the Gesshou-ji Temple stop
Hours: April~October: 8:30~17:30/November~March: 8:30~17:00
Close: Open every day
Fee: Adults: 500 yen, High/middle school students: 300 yen, Elementary school students: 250 yen
Phone: 0852-21-6056
Website: http://furusato.sanin.jp/p/area/matsue/37/ (Japanese text only)

Meimeian(Japanese text Only): This tea house was originally built by Lord Fumai in the 18th century and has been moved around Edo and Matsue. Tea time is available between 9:50 and 17:00 from April 1st to September 30th, and between 9:50 and 16:30 from October 1st to April 1st. Meimeian serves Saiundou’s special wagashi, Wakakusa, and Saneidou’s Natane no Sato with matcha.

the tea house

・10 minutes by car from Matsue Station
・City Bus (for Shimane University, Kawatsu): A 4-minute walk from Shiomi Nawate Stop
・Ichihata bus (for Etomo, Kaga):A 5-minute walk from Kitahoricho Stop
・Lake Line bus: A 5-minute walk from Shiomi Nawate
Address: 278 kitahori-cho, Matsue, Shimane
Hours: 9:50~17:00 (4/1 ~ 9/30)/ 9:50~16:30 (10/1~4/1)
Fee: Entrance fee: Individual: Adults 410 yen Children 200 yen
Group (20 people or more): Adults 300 yen Children 150 yen
Matcha and wagashi: 410 yen
Phone: 0852-21-9863
Website: http://www.meimeian.jp/index.html (Japanese text only)

Have a sip of matcha around Matsue Castle

Matsue Castle

The Matsue Castle Grand Tea Ceremony is held every year in the beginning of October and is known as one of the three largest tea ceremonies in Japan. 10 tea ceremony schools gather from all over Japan and celebrate Matsue’s tea culture. During Golden week (a week-long holiday at the beginning of May), the city of Matsue holds tea ceremonies over the Matsue Castle moat. It’ll seem as if you’re enjoying tea while floating on water.




Matsue Castle
Access: 30min. Walk from Matsue Station
Address: 1-5 Tonomachi, Matsue, Shimane
Hours: 8:30~18:30 (4/1~9/30)/ 8:30~16:30 (10/1~3/31)
Fee: Adults: 560yen
Children (elementary. Middle school students):280yen
Foreign visitors: 280yen
Phone: 0852-21-4030
Website: http://www.matsue-tourism.or.jp/m_castle/index.html (Japanese text only)

You can also watch the boats go by while enjoying delicious matcha and wagashi. Why not take a trip to Matsue and have a beautiful time sipping matcha and finding some gem-like wagashi? After your tea time, have a seat in the huge panoramic theatre that Lake Shinji offers, and end your day watching the sun sink behind the waves!

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Writer / Translator

Introducing... Just another poor college student living in Japan! My passion for music and nature drives me to live every day to the fullest. Ask me about Shimane and my favorite local shops in Tokyo!