One of my main missions while back in Japan has been to learn as much as I can about the history and development of traditions and overall culture of tea. So far, I've visited an organic tea farm, started tea ceremony practice lessons and also found a huge tea tree all within driving distance from where I currently live.
Additionally, I had been told about a nearby island which has a very unique and rich connection to the history of how tea came to Japan. Naturally, I had to go and see it for myself.
As the story goes,
A Zen Buddhist monk named Minnan Eisai (1141–1215), founder of the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism, returned from his studies in China in 1191 (at age 51) and landed at Kibiki in Ashi-no-ura in Hirado. He brought back with him tea seeds which he initially planted on the island of Hirado, Nagasaki, Japan, and then in the mountains of Kyushu (Saga Prefecture) before moving on to Kyoto.
While in Hirado, Eisai was given a hermitage named Fushun-an to perform his zen meditation. This was the first Zen temple in Japan. It was there that he also planted the first seeds of the tea plant and introduced the process of preparing matcha, which was used in China to enhance concentration (as well as keep the monks alert and awake) during meditation.
The original Fushun-an was later renamed Senkô-ji temple in 1695 and was transferred in 1702 to the location in Kibiki where it is now situated.
Additionally, at the presumed location of the old Fushun-an, a large stone can be seen, that according to local tradition was used by Eisai himself for zazen-meditation.
Eisai succeeded in initiating the custom of tea cultivation and was also partly responsible for spreading the custom of tea drinking which has grown to become the Art of Tea today. For this reason (amongst many others) I knew I had to visit this space and witness this epic piece of Tea History myself. I am inspired by the works of Eisai and hope to do something similar one day.
Giving thanks for new discoveries,
The Tea Lady