Experience a uniquely modern take on cha-kaiseki tea ceremony dining at Sokkon in upscale Aoyama. Owner Munemitsu Udagawa, the 19th-generation master of the Sowa-ryu school of tea ceremony, turns convention on its head with a refreshingly accessible approach that he calls “a return to the essence of tea tradition.”

Tea ceremonies are often associated with matcha and Japanese confectionery, but sometimes in addition to the tea, a meal known as cha-kaiseki is served. The cha-kaiseki, which is offered before the tea to those who have traveled from afar, consists of 10 dishes or so. Although seemingly excessive, each dish is fairly small and one portion of rice for example, is served as two. Like Western dinner courses there is a specific order in which the dishes are served, and detailed rules, such as the positioning of the chopsticks up to the centimeter, exist.

As tea ceremonies were originally held mainly within Kyoto’s upper class, tea houses around the country still use traditional Kyoto style cha-kaiseki catering to this day. However, more various styles gained popularity among Edo townspeople in the 17th century and since then, Tokyo has been redefining the culture as a place where people can enjoy cha-kaiseki in an unconventional, modern way.

Sokkon is a tea house restaurant located in Aoyama, Tokyo's premier luxury fashion district. The owner, Munemitsu Udagawa succeeded the 18th generation of Sowa-ryu, one of the many tea schools. The tea house consists of three rooms; a small tatami bar, a tea room and a dining area. Similar to how you would enjoy an aperitif, guests first enter the bar where the French manager offers a cocktail using matcha. “We combined the tea ceremony with the cocktail culture,” says Udagawa. “Guests can experience the traditional tea ceremony in the tea room. Some bring their own tea utensils and invite their friends to host tea ceremonies. I hope people enjoy the tea tradition without feeling bound to specific styles.” In the bright dining room, guests can enjoy dishes offered in the cha-kaiseki a la carte. “Some may think this is a new approach, but I see it as a return to the essence of the tea tradition. Today, there are numerous tea ceremony schools and various styles for each school. Ceremonial etiquette should be honored, but my idea of tea ceremonies are much more enjoyable: the original tea ceremony was like a modern home party, where entertaining guests and enjoying conversations was at the core. I felt there should be a tea house where you could casually drop in and socialize. That is why I created Sokkon.” While staying true to the traditional tea ceremony, Sokkon offers a one-of-a-kind tea experience in a comfortable setting with friendly conversations.