The Land of Tea Escort Mission (茶の国要人警護任務, Cha no Kuni Yōjin Keigo Ninmu) spans from episodes 102 to 106 of the Naruto anime. Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura go to the Land of Tea to help Idate Morino win a race. This arc is preceded by the Search for Tsunade and is followed by the Sasuke Recovery Mission.
With Konoha having a shortage of jōnin due to Orochimaru’s failed invasion, Tsunade was forced to use genin for more dangerous missions than normally allowed. Team 7 (minus Kakashi who was assigned to another mission) was given the assignment of escorting a member of the Wasabi family through a dangerous annual race as it was rumoured the rival Wagarashi family had hired ninja of their own to sabotage the Wasabi family. Along the way, they met an arrogant teenager named Idate who openly showed his hatred towards ninja. He also showed off his impressive speed by running away from Team 7 after conning them into paying his bill at a restaurant. Upon arriving in the Land of Tea and meeting the Wasabi family’s leader, Jirōchō, Team 7 was shocked to see Idate again and learn he was the man they were assigned to escort.
During the race, Naruto and Idate continued to show their dislike of each other. It was also revealed that Idate was actually the younger brother of Ibiki and formerly a Konoha genin. They also encountered the three Ame genin from the Chūnin Exams. After defeating them, they encountered Aoi Rokushō, another former Konoha shinobi, who betrayed Konoha to join Amegakure. He was also originally Idate's teacher and the one responsible for Idate running away from Konoha. After barely surviving Aoi’s attack, Idate explained how after he was failed by Ibiki himself for the Chūnin Exams, Aoi tricked Idate into stealing a special scroll and the Sword of the Thunder God from the village. Being able to relate with Idate in both being taken advantage of and the need to have others recognise them, Naruto helped Idate regain his self-worth and continue the race.
While managing to catch up in the race, Aoi appeared again and used the Thunder Sword to initially overpower the Team 7. But thanks to Sasuke fighting Aoi and weakening the sword with his Chidori, Naruto was able to break it when they clashed and defeat Aoi with his Rasengan. With the danger overcome, Idate was free to continue and win the race for the Wasabi family. While returning to the village, Team 7 was escorted by Ibiki himself. While he did not openly state this fact, Ibiki was glad that Naruto had helped his brother grow as a man.
|#||Episode Title||Japanese Airdate||English Airdate|
|102||"Mission: Help an Old Friend in the Land of Tea"||22 September 2004||25 August 2007|
|103||"The Race is On! Trouble on the High Seas!"||29 September 2004||1 September 2007|
|104||"Run Idate Run! Nagi Island Awaits!"||13 October 2004||8 September 2007|
|105||"A Fierce Battle of Rolling Thunder!"||20 October 2004||15 September 2007|
|106||"The Last Leg: A Final Act of Desperation"||27 October 2004||22 September 2007|