Green fields of tea ー almost ready to be harvested ー extend out across the mountain at an altitude of 350 meters. Seat yourself on a wooden terrace built right into the middle of the tea field, and enjoy your own monopoly on the view of fresh greenery that spreads out below.
The “Tea Room in the Sky” (Houkouen) is on a terrace overhanging the steep slopes of the tea fields in Shizuoka City’s Shimizu ward. It’s a popular spot for visitors where, depending on the season and weather, you can see Mt. Fuji or a sea of clouds.
It is one of the Cha no Ma (Tea Rooms) offered at six green tea plantations in Shizuoka Prefecture as an experiential attraction for tourists. The program lets you enjoy green tea carefully selected from tea leaves harvested from the fields right in front of you. The project started two years ago and has been enjoyed so far by about 3500 people, mostly in their 20s and 30s.
The tea rooms are managed by the Suruga Marketing and Tourism Bureau (Shizuoka City), which promotes tourism in the central part of Shizuoka Prefecture. Kyoka Suzuki, 28, who has been involved in the program since its planning stages, says, “Having grown up drinking Shizuoka’s green tea myself, I wanted to do something about the declining demand for tea leaves. I hope that young people who are not familiar with drinking tea served in a teapot can also learn how wonderful it can be.”
Becoming known as places where you can enjoy the great beauty of Nature, the Cha no Ma they are popular as recreational spots where you can avoid the “Three Cs” (closed places, close conversations and crowded spaces). Paloma Saizu, 24, who was visiting from Iwata City, Shizuoka Prefecture says, “I was looking for ways to spend my off-days amid the coronavirus outbreak. In the middle of Nature you’re surrounded by no one, which is so soothing, and the tea is also delicious.”
Advance reservations are necessary.Although currently there are restrictions on visitors coming from areas that are under a COVID-19 state of emergency, some of the tea room terraces are fully booked a month in advance.
The newly discovered charm of tea drinking is becoming a trend in Shizuoka, a prefecture known for green tea. The full experience can be enjoyed by using all five of your senses, while listening to the birds chirping and feeling the winds blowing across the spectacular tea fields.
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(Read The Sankei Shimbun photo essay in Japanese at this link.)
Mizuho Miyazaki, Sankei Shimbun photo news department