New center fits Matsue to a 'tea'

MATSUE CITY, Japan -- This city opened a tea ceremony room in its tourist information center to introduce visitors to the Fumai Style Tea Ceremony, a local tradition for which it is famous.

The center was established last year to mark the 50th anniversary of Matsue's official designation as an International Cultural Tourist City. Meanwhile, the tea center was opened in April in anticipation of increased tourist traffic for the World Cup soccer tournament.

The ceremony was originated by Matsudaira Fumai, an 18th century tea master and ruler of the Matsue Domain. The ceremony fostered the development of two other traditions for which the area became known: fine confections (called wagashi) and ceramics, especially tea bowls. The tea ceremony room is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Matsue, capital of the Shimane Prefecture, is a castle town known as a "city on the water" because of its abundant waterways and location between Lake Shinji and the Sea of Japan.

One of the city's newer attractions is the Louis C. Tiffany Museum and Gardens. Perched over Lake Shinji, the museum displays more than 200 of the lamps and stained-glass works by the famous craftsman. The grounds include an English garden.

More information is available by calling the Japan National Tourist Organization at (212) 757-5641 or visiting www.jnto.go.jp.

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