This image is part of a short series, A Celebration of Tea, which began here.
Not all tea in Japan is the matcha of the formal tea ceremony. There are many other varieties enjoyed on an everyday basis. The most common are sencha (煎茶) which is a pale green or yellow tea often brewed at home, when guests visit or while working at the office; hōjicha (ほうじ茶) which is a kind of roasted brown tea, very easy to drink and often served in restaurants and at home; and genmaicha (玄米茶), a kind of green tea that includes both tea leaves and roasted brown rice. Of course there are many varieties of each of these, and quite naturally the Japanese enjoy the black leaf teas (called kōcha; 紅茶) popular in Europe and America as well. In modern Japan, perhaps the most common of all are the numerous bottled versions of these teas sold by major drink manufacturers like Suntory, Kirin and Asahi. Indeed, tea -- not water or sweetened sodas -- is the largest-selling bottled drink in Japan.
Here, however, an iron pot over glowing coals in an old hibachi reminds us of another way to enjoy tea. The hibachi keeps you warm and the coals assure that there is always water ready for tea, while curls of steam coming from the pot add a little humidity to the dry autumn air. Of course almost no one uses a hibachi anymore, but even many of the modern gas or kerosene heaters still include a special place to put the teapot. The two sticks in the hibachi are iron chopsticks called hibashi (火箸) which are used to handle the hot charcoal. Why not put some water in the pot, arrange the coals to your liking and have a seat. If you listen you will hear the gentle murmur of the water and the quiet sound of autumn's approach.