Tocha as One of the Most Popular Tea Games in Japan

In Japan, tea drinking has a long history. Brought from China during the Tang Dynasty (618-905), it has already flourished as early as Heian period (794-1185). Tea plants were grown on the grounds of the temples and used by noblemen and priests as a medicinal beverage. In Japan, tea was known as a luxurious product, as comparatively small quantities of it were exported from China. Today tea drinking and the tea game is regarded as an important part of Japanese culture.

Originally, tea was used in Japan as a stimulant to keep the monks from falling asleep during meditation. However, by the mid-XIV century, the demand for this heath beneficial beverage has increased and spread soon to the Samurai society and the rural communities. When a new class of people appeared in Japan after fall of the Kamakura period in 1333, tea drinking has become a fun activity, as gekokugo frequently arranged large gatherings to enjoy tea and play a tea game, known as tocha. Originated in China's Sung dynasty, this game tested the guests' ability to distinguish between two types of tea produced within the country.

This tea game was enjoyed by people of all classes. Held in a room, known as kissa-no-tei, it was hosted by the teishu, who still hosts tea gatherings. Frequently referred to as Gojuppukucha or Juppuku-Cha, Tocha involves consuming a great number of different tea varieties and guessing which of the tea growing regions each variety comes from. All contestants would get prizes of works of art or silks, depending on the number of correct answers given by them. Described usually as riotous and flamboyant tea game, Tocha helped essentially extend custom of tea gatherings to the common people.

Today the game enjoys wide popularity in a number of Asian countries, and can be as well enjoyed by you and your friends. First, you'll need five different tea types, such as Oolong, Green Tea, Herbal Tea, Earl Grey and Orange Pekoe. You should also prepare small pieces of paper to write down a description of each type of tea. This can be done with the help of ingredients listed on the tea box. On the blank side of a piece of paper write down the name of the tea and the region or country it comes from. The next step is to prepare prizes that can be either found at home, or purchased inexpensively at a store.

These may include candy, bar of fragrant soap, picture frame, roll of pennies and pens or pencils with a neat design. You'll also need five teapots, a kettle, hot plate and 20 heat resistant disposable cups. Tocha is a memory and knowledge game. All participants have to study the tea descriptions which have been brought to the tea gathering, before tasting the tea. Tea descriptions should be then put into a bucket.

There are five tea tasting rounds, with the tasting itself being a blind taste test, when the participants shouldn't know which tea type they are sampling. Considered by each contestant should be the smell, color and taste of the tea they are sampling. After each contestant has tested a particular type of tea, the host should read the tea description and ask the participants which country the tea comes from. The contestant that guesses correctly wins a prize for each round. The process should be repeated for each type of tea. In addition to Tocha tea game, tea drinking in Japan involved a number of other tea cup games and forms of art, like scroll painting and poetry.

A traditional form of Japanese literary expression, Haiku poetry can involve nearly everything, so you are free to choose depending on what you want to write about. And though writing a Haiku can be challenging, it is a wonderful exercise for increasing writing skills and creativity.

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