Midwest Living Review
Once a week, Japan House invites the public for traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. It's really something to experience. In nearly complete silence, the host meticulously prepares a foamy green tea, while you kneel nearby on a straw mat. After you bow to each other, the host presents a ceramic bowl for you to sip from. In case you get confused about what to do, a tour guide is on the sidelines, giving you tips on tea-ceremony etiquette. It's a dignified and peaceful ritual, as well as a fascinating introduction to this aspect of Japanese culture. Open since 1998, Japan House is a University of Illinois facility where students take classes in traditional Japanese arts and aesthetics. Its three tearooms were constructed in Japan, then shipped to Urbana and reassembled by Japanese carpenters. Make sure to look around the lovingly landscaped gardens. The house is on the grounds of the University of Illinois Arboretum, which is also worth a visit. Public hours are limited, so plan your visit accordingly. Normally, Japan House is open to tours 14 p.m. Thursdays with ceremonies at 2 and 3 p.m.; also, tours 15 p.m. on the third Saturday. (Hours are more limited in summer: 25 p.m. Thursdays, with one tea ceremony at 3 p.m. Call ahead to confirm times.) The tea ceremony and an introductory tour of the elegant building take about an hour altogether. The cost for participating in the ceremony is $6. Reservations are requested, but walk-ins are accepted.