With a bow, the traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony began.
Yumi Nishimura sat down behind a low table, took a fukusa (handkerchief) from her traditional kimono and wiped a blue container with green tea leaves inside three times.
Every movement has a purpose and dates back thousands of years, she said.
“It’s a very important ceremony,” said Nishimura, who is studying to be a Tea Master. “It is meant to be calming.”
The ceremony, which lasts about a minute and ends with a bow, was held Sunday for the first time in more than 20 years in the Ichimura Miami Japan Garden during its winter festival, Oshogatsu.
The festival, put on by the Friends of the Japanese Garden, also included Taiko drumming, martial arts demonstrations and ikebana (flower arranging) lessons.
Consul General of Japan in Miami Ken Okaniwa, who welcomed attendees as rain poured down, said the festival is the perfect way to celebrate culture and diversity. He said the tea ceremony is especially important because “it’s a way of realizing that each moment is special.”
He said having the ceremony outside among the “flora and fauna” is fitting.
“We try to live in harmony with nature,” he said, adding that there are about 800 Japanese people living in Miami-Dade.
Nestled on Watson Island near Jungle Island, the Ichimura Miami Japan Garden features a rock garden and hybrid versions of Japanese flora including the cherry blossom tree, which can’t thrive in South Florida’s climate. The garden was a gift from Kiyoshi Ichimura, the founder of the Ricoh Company, in the 1960s. In 1992, the tea house and much of the garden was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew.
It reopened in 2004, without a tea house.
Rick Del Vecchio, the president of the Friends of the Japanese Garden, said the group secures grants and donations in order to host three events a year.
“A lot of people don’t even know it’s here,” he said. “The events help get the word out.”
Adding the tea ceremony this year came from suggestions by board members of Japanese descent, Del Vecchio said.
On Sunday, dozens — many of whom were dressed as their favorite anime characters — sampled Japanese food and participated in the tea ceremony, which included eating a sweet treat made of rice flour called Sakura Mochi and drinking green tea.
Suzan Ponzoli, who said she finds Japanese culture fascinating and was excited to attend the festival, likened the ceremony to a dance.
“Every step is so precise,” she said. “It’s beautiful.”