The Art of Tea Cultivation: How to Plant High-Quality Tea Trees in Japan

Tea has been a significant part of Japanese culture for centuries. The cultivation of tea was introduced by Buddhist priests who had studied Buddhism in China and returned to Japan. While tea cultivation started from seeds, this method produced tea of varying quality. Today, cultivating high-quality tea requires taking a cutting from qualified tea trees and planting it. In this article, we will discuss the procedure of planting cuttings and the various cultivation styles used in Japan.

Planting Cuttings

The best time to plant cuttings is between the end of June and early July. In some areas of Kyushu, planting cuttings can also be done in the fall, but it requires high skill. To begin, find a parent tea tree that has not been harvested. Next, prepare the soil. Water control is the most challenging aspect of tea cultivation. However, selecting the soil carefully can make watering easier and less stressful. It is recommended to use an equal amount of Akadama soil and Kanuma soil. If similar characteristic soils are not available, soils with good drainage and moisture retention can be used as substitutes. When using soil from the farm, put it through a sieve (1.5m) and sterilize it before using it.

Trim the cutting, leaving only two sections and two tea leaves. When taking the cutting from the parent tree, it is recommended to take the one from the lower part. The cutting should be thick and solid. Water the soil with Kansui (pour plenty of water) at first. If the weather is fine, try to give plenty of water once a day for a month, and then reduce the amount of water little by little. Other things to consider include the following:

  • Water supply is necessary.
  • Shade: 30-40% sunlight is sufficient, and something like Yoshizu can be used to make shade.
  • Wind protection: Surround the trees.
  • Temperature: The ground temperature needs to be more than 15 degrees Celsius. During the summer, be careful with ventilation, as when the temperature of the ground exceeds 40 degrees Celsius, the trees can easily wither.


Saplings should be transplanted to the farm during the winter or between March to April. Pay attention to the roots and avoid damaging them. After transplanting, water the saplings plenty, and cover the soil with straws to keep the moisture in the soil. Cut off the part of sapling higher than 20 cm and leave more than 10 tea leaves. At flatland, line the saplings in the direction of South-North. At hillside, line the saplings to contour line to avoid an outflow of soil.

Tea Cultivation Styles

There are various ways to line the saplings, but two common methods are the Tanjyou and Fukujyuchidori ways. Tanjyo style has been used for a long time and is often used when an electrical plucker is used for the harvest. This style makes it possible to use fewer saplings on a large piece of land and produce high amounts of tea. However, it takes five years for the trees to be ready for tea cultivation. During this time, there is no profit, making it challenging to determine if this style of farming is profitable. Additionally, getting withered trees is not an ideal situation as it creates gaps in the line, requiring high skill and experience to prevent. The space between the lines should be 180 cm because most of the plucker machines are designed to go through 150 to 180 cm spaces. The space between each sapling should be 30 cm; less space can hinder proper growth.

Fujukyouchidori style is often seen in Kagoshima prefecture, and now it is getting popular in Shizuoka prefecture as well. It was originally believed not being efficiency. However, it only takes 3 years to get ready for the tea cultivation. Therefore, it is actually as profitable as other style of tea cultivation. The spaces between lines should be 180cm, and leave the gap between trees for 45-50cm.

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