The Way of Tea Recap – An Introduction to Japanese Tea Ceremonies with Ruth (Sōshin) Lionberger

By Tanja Kinnen, FEW Special Events Director

The Way of Tea and the chance to gain deeper insights into this mysterious Japanese tradition brought 15 curious women to attend our special event on a sunny Monday afternoon. The national holiday seemed like the perfect opportunity to get to know more about the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

Ruth (Sōshin) Lionberger not only presented a brief introduction on the history of the Japanese tradition of serving tea, but also shared precious life lessons behind the ceremony.

From the moment you walk through the traditional gardens to respectfully crawling through the door of a traditional tea house, every step of the ceremony has been carefully planned to separate you from the outer world and guide you into the inner; as well as take you back to a time of childhood innocence and humility, when the purest of human interactions take place. That’s the original concept of the tea ceremony, which was founded when hierarchies were even more important in Japanese society than they are today.

Indeed, every component of the ceremony is designed around the principles of zen. As the wooden door closes, we leave the outside, temporal world and enter the tea room, empty of all things to bring into focus every detail of the ceremony, from the handling of the instruments to the serving of the wagashi (sweets) and the preparation of the tea.

“There is a man who is so poor that he eats wood and wears clothes made of grass. But his heart is clear like the moon and his mind is calm and nothing disturbs him. If someone asks him, “Where do you live?” he replies, “In the green mountains by the pure water.” – T’ang Dynasty Chinese Priest

Ruth gave us a unique and unconventional opportunity to learn about tea in all its different facets through dialogue and understanding the meaning behind the ceremony. True to her goal of bringing back the origins of the tea ceremony, Ruth was not so much focused on the gestures and manners, but rather on giving us an opportunity to leave behind our busy lives and the world outside, and practice inner contemplation and the four guiding principles: Harmony, Respect, Purity, and Tranquility. 

For more information on Ruth’s tea classes in Japan: or visit her Facebook Page: Tea For The Ages at


Q&A with Jackie F. Steele and Megumi Ishimoto

Leading up to our upcoming monthly meeting on ‘Celebrating Women as Change Agents in Post-Disaster Tohoku,’ we’re featuring a Q&A with Jackie F. Steele, a political scientist at the University of Tokyo, and Megumi Ishimoto, Executive Director of NPO Women’s Eye. The Q&A is modeled on the Proust Questionnaire, designed to reveal insights into the respondent’s personality. Join us […]

Published on 14th March 2018

March Strategic Partner Member Offers and Other News

Check out the latest member offers and opportunities from our Strategic Partners here! Our Strategic Partners are committed to bringing the best services and products to FEW members. And go to our Strategic Partners page to learn more about all of FEW’s Strategic Partners, who not only support FEW’s activities but also provide professional and personal services […]

Published on 1st March 2018

February Meeting Recap: Survivor – How to Overcome Adversity

You never know where life is going to take you. That was the message from our February guest speaker, Maxine Van-Cliffe Arakawa, who has had a decades-long career as a fashion stylist, make-up artist, and fashion show director in New York and Japan. She shared her personal experiences dealing with bi-polar disorder and gave her candid advice to […]

Published on 1st March 2018

March Community Services Feature: Five Tokyo-Based Organizations That Fight For or Empower Women

In honor of March’s International Women’s Day, we’d like to present to our FEW community a list of five organizations that have established themselves as organizations who fight for or empower women as well as a list of five events that you can attend to show your support for this year’s theme of #PressFor Progress. […]

Published on 28th February 2018

How I Got Here: Johanna Nousiainen

I first came to Japan as a study abroad exchange student. That year changed my life, even though at first I didn’t know it would. I was supposed to become a journalist in Finland, since that was what I loved to do – looking for information, interviewing people, writing articles about unique encounters you have. […]

Published on 28th February 2018