A History of Tea in Japan

The Japanese love of tea is well known. It’s as quintessential of the Japanese diet as the sushi, the teriyaki, or any of the other dishes at our Issaquah sushi restaurant. You can expect to find this favorite drink in just about every restaurant, market, or vending machine throughout the country. But how did tea first make its way to Japan in the first place?

Tea first made its way to Japan from China at some point during the Nara Period, between 710 and 794 ad. In its early years, it was sold as a luxury medicine that was available only to nobles and members of the priesthood. Later on, during the Kamukura Period (1192-1333 ad), Japan imported the Chinese custom of making tea from powdered leaves. The cultivation of tea quickly caught on throughout the country, and tea started to become accessible to people of all social classes. By the time of the Muromachi Period (1333-1573 ad), people were drinking tea socially, playing tea-drinking games together and showing off status with prized tea utensils.