• Belfast Between The Wars

TEA – IN JAPANESE FASHION: BELFAST WOMEN ENTERTAINED

Northern Whig, Wednesday 19th May 1937


Some Belfast women, wives or daughters of Rotarians, were privileged to drink tea in Japanese fashion at the Grand Central Hotel yesterday. Miss Uyeda, who with her father is on a tour of Europe, entertained the ladies. There were members of the Inner Wheel present, and they received the guest. Mrs. J. W. Lindsay acted as hostess, and Mr. F. R. Unwin, who is convenor of the International Service Committee of the Rotary Club, introduced Miss Uyeda.


It was explained that in Japan the serving and drinking of tea necessitated so many observances that it included nearly all the phases of etiquette observed in Japanese life. If any mistake were made even in the smallest detail of what amounts to a ritual it would constitute a grave breach of etiquette and would be enough to stamp as ignorant one who was formally supposed cultured. Only four or five guests were chosen for ceremonial tea-drinking, said Mr. Unwin. A host of rules prescribed for the bringing in of utensils, for sitting down and rising, and even for opening and closing the sliding doors, had to be followed meticulously. The hostess herself prepared the tea in front of her guests, it was stated. The bowl, even though it was quite clean and polished, had to be rinsed ceremoniously, and it was part of the etiquette that all guests should wash their hands immediately before coming in for tea. A special stove was used for heating the water for the tea-making, and it was pointed out that Miss Uyeda brought with her a special travelling stove for this purpose. With a long-handled spoon a little green powdered tea was taken from a wonderfully decorated canister, and hot water was poured over this from a special bamboo ladle. This mixture was then whipped as much as cream is, and then the chief guest was supposed to come forward to the table, lift the bowl and sip the tea. This bowl then was passed from one guest to the other until the last person drained it, after which the bowl was passed round again, admired, and conversation, strictly limited to praises of utensils, room decorations, &c., was pursued. After about two hours spent in admiration the guests left or were entertained to a dinner party.


All these details of procedure Miss Uyeda followed. Among her Belfast audience no woman could refrain from passing the compliments, which are fixed things Japan, but were spontaneous yesterday. Her bowl was of fine porcelain with a delicate design, and the heavily ornamented canister was an object of admiration. Although she often wears European dress, Miss Uyeda appeared in traditional Japanese costume yesterday.


Miss Uyeda showed some examples of Japanese embroidered cloths and some interesting photographs. She said that among the younger girls of Japan there was a movement in favour of short hair and European clothes.


You can view images of the hotel's beautiful exterior and interior on National Museums NI's website.


Find out more about the history of the hotel here.