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Try Buku Buku Tea in Okinawa! Ryukyuan Tea Ceremony Buku Buku Tea Akeshino no Kai

post : 2017.06.09 18:00

Speaking of tea in Okinawa, probably most people might come up with sanpin-cha (jasmine tea). Sanpin-cha is a part of scented tea which has the scent of jasmine, and it is a popular beverage which is served at households and restaurants in Okinawa along with iced lemon tea.

As Sanpin-cha is originally came from China, and tea was from the United States. Both came from overseas, and there is 1 more tea which was brought from overseas to Okinawa.

It is Buku buku tea which was popular around Naha from Meiji era to before WW Ⅱ. When I researched on it, I found out the fact that Buku buku tea is organized just like Japanese tea ceremony and anybody can experience it as a one-to-one basis! So I attended at the tea ceremony experience to find out what it looks like.

I knocked on a gate which looked like a historical gate, and then opened a sliding door. I heard a graceful voice saying “hello, may I help you?” Voice of the speaker was Chieko Tanaka, the representative of NPO Ryukyuan Tea Ceremony Buku Buku Tea Akeshino no Kai. She used to work as a teacher at elementary schools for a long time, and this tea ceremony was started under the mentorship of her.

First, participants need to dress in bingata kimono. You can also put it over your clothing. You might feel like being transported back in the old days of Okinawa by wearing a colorful kimono.

After listening to Ryukyuan folk music as background music and giving yourself to slow-moving time, you are ready.

First, sit up straight and learn about manner on how to drink tea.

When the tea is served and put near your knees, you need to say “chodai itashimasu (I would like to have it.)” first.

Next, while holding a tea bowl with a right hand, put a left hand and lift it with both hands.

When you lift the bowl to in front of your chest, turn it about 1/4 round counterclockwise. The key to it is to avoid drinking tea from the frontal side of the tea bowl, and there is no strict rule such as how much angle to turn the bowl.

After looking at foam of tea and enjoying its beauty, it is time to “eat” the foam as sucking all of it. 

The foam will be remained in the tea bowl if you finished drinking tea before you eat it. The key to it is to eat the foam first before finishing your tea. Also, you need to be careful not to make a noise then.

After enjoying semi-sweet flavor and a savory of tea lightly, leave the tea bowl, and say a word of appreciation “it was delicious.” And that is the end of the ceremony.

According to Tanaka, Buku buku tea is a part of furi-cha (tea with foam). It came down to Ryukyu Kingdom via Satsuma (presently Kagoshima Prefecture) after the 16th century, and it was served to welcome Chinese envoys. The ingredient of Buku buku tea is powdered roasted brown rice. Pour the tea into a tea bow, make a tea with foam with a big tea whisk quickly, and add the foam on top of the tea.

It sounds easy to make the tea, but it actually needs practice to make and scoop foam beautifully.

Take a look at the fluffy foam that looks like the cumulonimbus cloud in summer time. The dynamic foam is made of the water in Okinawa. It is sump water that went through Ryukyu limestone, so it contains lots of minerals.

“Tabidachi no hi ni / Buku buku no ocha ya / tabi no karî na mun / tatete meguraseba / muto no Tomari”

This is a Ryūka (Ryukyuan poetry), and it means;

“Buku buku tea brings a good luck on the day of someone's departure. If you serve Buku buku tea and send someone off, he/she will return to the port safely.”

This is the auspicious tea to promise a reunion and drink when someone goes on a journey. 

And, Tanaka has worked hard to organize Buku buku tea, and she picked “和敬清寛 Wakei Seikan” as the regulations of Buku buku tea ceremony. She got an idea from “和敬清寂 Wakei Seijaku (harmony, respect, purity and tranquility; the regulations of the Japanese tea ceremony).

寛 of “和敬清寛” means “slow and laid-back,” and also “a lenient attitude toward the others.” Tanaka has wished to meet people by transcending thought, principle, and nationality. At the same time, she worked very hard to resuscitate Buku buku tea and make her wish comes true. 

For the Buku buku tea ceremony experience, participants can learn about the historical background of Buku buku tea. Would you like to have Buku buku tea for the memory of your trip to Okinawa?

○ Buku buku tea ceremony experience: 1,000 yen/person (about 1 hour).
○ A workshop to learn how to make tea: 2,000 yen/person (about 2 hours). 
* Advance reservation or inquiry is necessary.


Ryukyuan Tea Ceremony Buku Buku Tea Akeshino no Kai
Address: 3-8-6 Ahacha, Urasoe City
Tel: 098-879-2847 / 090-9788-1136
Business hours: 9:00 – 18:00
Closed: irregularly (inquiry is necessary)

Okinawa CLIP photo writer Nobuya Fukuda