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Japanese Tea Culture

Lucky tea of the New Year

There is a traditional event at the new year in Rokuharamitsu temple in Kyoto, called "Oubukucha". At the temple, tea is served to the people with pickled ume and cooked kelp inside the cups. It is said if people drink Obukucha at the new year, they will have good health all through the year. This tea may have connections with Fukucha. Maybe Obukucha is just a formal way to call Fukucha.
Now, what is Fukucha exactly? To make Fukucha, use the water freshly drawing from the well on the new years day to make tea, and this tea spreads all over Japan. For example, in Tokuchicho in Yamaguchi prefecture has the custom to drink Fukucha in the morning of Jan 1st, 2nd and 3rd. People drink this tea with pickled ume and sugar. Also in Yoshiicho in Nagasaki prefecture, they drink Fukucha and eat Japanese radish, picked ume, dried persimmon, cooked kelp with it.
However, in some place, Fukucha is drunk in setsubun (the day before the beginning of Spring in Japanese old calender, Feb 3rd). In Fukuroi city in Shizuoka prefecture, they put about 3 pieces of beans into the tea pot, and family gather around the pot and drink tea. It is said the one scoop the tea with bean inside will be a fortune one for the year.
Originally setsubun is annual event on the basis of lunar calender. And the next day is said as a first day of the spring. In other words, it is a turning point of last day of Winter and the first day of Spring. Moreover, New Yea in the lunar calendar was around Setsubun, Feb 3rd, and next day of Setsubun was called the first day of Spring. The reason of drinking Fukucha for the new year or at Setsubun was because tea was something we drink everday, and people paid more attention for drinking the first cup of tea of the year.

(Yoichiro Nakamura)