KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One part of Loose Park in Kansas City, Missouri, offers an important educational opportunity ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games: the Japanese Tea Room and Garden.
Paula Winchester is at home, and at work, in the tea room.
"It’s a very ritualized process in which you are serving a specific kind of tea called matcha, which is pure powdered tea leaves, to your guests," Winchester said.
She spend 15 years learning from a tea master. Now a tea master herself, her work unfolds in the small space.
"It’s not a British afternoon tea at all, you’re really concentrating. You, the guests, are really concentrating on what the host is doing with their hands," Winchester said.
It's an intricate process, with a soothing final result accompanied by Japanese teachings.
"You are only here today. This will never be able to be done again. I think it’s being in the moment and seeing the light change in the space," Winchester said, referring to the light that spills in from the Japanese garden, just outside.
The garden is part of the Sister City program, which brings Kansas City, Missouri, and Kurashiki, Japan, together to share cultures, and promote cultural understanding. It's an important place for those who find it.
"A woman who used to come in because she had cancer, she’d sit on that stone and she told me it was her place to meditate and connect with nature and heal herself, really," said Judy Penner of Kansas City Parks and Recreation.
Though thousands of miles from the Olympic host, Kansas City offers an immersive experience.
"You walk in and you start to feel peaceful. That’s just the placement of everything and how it was laid out, that just gives you a serenity you can only get in a Japanese garden," Penner said.
The Tea Room and Garden are 15 years old, with limited space for just four people.
The tea room is currently closed for COVID-19 protocols, but organizers hope to reopen soon. The garden remains open to the public.