The story

Tea Master Sen no Rikyu



Learning From the Great Tea Sage, Sen-No-Rikyu

When you hear the splash
Of the water drops that fall Into the stone bowl
You will feel that all the dust Of your mind is washed away.

When we hear our kettle squealing, our boiler jumping with delight, the pitter patter of water hitting the bottom of our mug we anticipate the beautiful cup of tea being created. Sen-No-Rikyu (1522-1591), arguably the greatest tea master of all time, is a wonderful sage for us tea drinkers to come closer to in thought, action, and consumption. Sen-No-Rikyu was the greatest influence to Japanese tea philosophy, but he was also vital in bringing tea to its height by infusing it with the political sphere and the common people of Japan. Luckily for us, Sen-No-Rikyu left tea drinkers with his four great virtues - Harmony, Reverence, Purity, and Calm - to help attain the greatest amount of taste in our personal adventure with tea.

Now, how could a man accomplish this? His goal was not to make tea even more complicated but to simplify, coalesce the ritual of tea. Rikyu lived in a time of great political turbulence and sought to provide solace for all in the art of tea. it is with this sentiment that he established the four virtues of tea. We as tea drinkers can still strive to learn from his philosophy. We can recognize the inner harmony in Rikyu’s teaching to benefit our intimate (maybe for some almost romantic) relationship with tea.

Sharing is caring. One of the pillars of tea consumption is sharing with loved ones and friends or in Rikyu’s words: Harmony. Rikyu sought to achieve friendliness between multiple people, encouraging harmony between the host and the guest. We as tea drinkers could not be harmed by sharing our interest in this wonderful world that we all enjoy. You never know, we may even gain some new friends, bring a new aspect to a previous relationship, or join a blog about tea. Rikyu also sought harmony with humanity and nature. As many know the conditions on tea plantations across the world can be appalling. This highlights our responsibility as tea connoisseurs to be aware of where tea is sourced and each company’s treatment of their employees.

In thinking about the farmers, the people who take the time to hand roll our dear jasmine pearl or create the finest ceremonial grade uji matcha, there is a sense of gratitude. With this acknowledgement of their sacrifice we as western consumers should be humble and appreciate this great gift of tea. Not only is tea frequently sourced from eastern countries but the very concept is eastern. Western Civilization only came to know tea through its trade with China. Once aware of tea’s value, they were able to export tea through horrible abuse of the people in India and China. It is our job to be humble, Reverence being Rikyu’s second virtue to acknowledge the past and do our best to stop any abuses from continuing.

Though invisible
There’s a thing that should be swept with our busy broom.
‘It is the dirt that ever clings
To the impure human heart.

These lines demonstrate Rikyu striving for his third virtue: Purity. When taking those first sips of tea Rikyu encourages one to “empty one’s mind” and simply be in the present: admire the amazing fragrance, relish in the robust mouthfeel, and acknowledge the astringency.

Most tea drinkers can agree that there is an exquisite calm that comes with the ritual of preparing tea. Measuring your desired amount, making sure the water is the right temperature and pouring. This ritual allows for Rikyu’s fourth virtue to take hold: Calm. Rikyu encouraged a new simplicity in his time, making the tea ceremony significantly more simple in comparison to Japan’s previous history of lavish events involving tea. Rikyu used the tea ritual to bestow a sense of calm, to help prepare those of us partaking in the creation of tea to handle any trials that may lie in the oncoming day, month, or year. Rikyu’s simplicity and wisdom still contains valuable lessons that even the beginner, the experienced, or the crankiest morning tea drinker can benefit from. With this being said I leave you with a beautiful quote from our dear sage.

"Tea is not but this.
First you make the water boil,

Then infuse the tea.
Then you drink it properly.
That is all you need to know.”

“All that I know already,” replied the other with an air of disgust.

“Well, if there is any one who knows it already, I shall be very pleased to become his pupil,” returned Rikyu.


Tea Master Sen no Rikyu - History

Shoan was Rikyu's adopted son his mother was Rikyu's second wife, Soon, and his wife was Rikyu's daughter, Okame. After Rikyu's death by order of Hideyoshi, Shoan took refuge in Aizu-Wakamatsu with Gamo Ujisato, one of Rikyu's disciples. Through the intervention of Gamo and TOKUGAWA Ieyasu, who later became the first Tokugawa shogun, Hideyoshi allowed Shoan to return home to Kyoto. Shoan moved Rikyu's tea house, Fushin'an, to its present location on Ogawa street.
      Shoan remained the head of the family for only a short period before passing the position to his son, Sotan, because he believed that Rikyu's direct descendant should head the household. Although his era was short, Shoan helped to protect Rikyu's chanoyu ideals at a crucial period for the Sen family.

Rikyu's grandson, Shuri, son of Shoan and Okame, was born in Sakai on the 1st day of the 1st month, 1578. He began his Zen training at the age of eleven under the priest Shun'oku Soen, head priest of Sangen'in at Daitokuji temple in Kyoto, where he became known by the name Sotan. Later in life, he also used the names Gempaku, Genshuku, Totsutotsusai, and Kan'un.
      Sotan became the head of the Sen household in 1596, at the age of eighteen, when his father, Shoan, retired. He had two sons, Sosetsu and Soshu, by his first wife, and two more sons, Sosa and Senso, by his second wife, Soken, a former lady-in-waiting of Empress Tofukumon'in.
      Although Sotan shunned public office, he was an important cultural figure of his time, and was well acquainted with many members of the cultural elite, including the talented calligrapher, potter, and sword appraiser HON'AMI Koetsu, and the important patron of the arts, Empress Tofukumon'in, who was the daughter of Shogun TOKUGAWA Hidetada and wife of Emperor Go-Mizuno'o.
      Sotan is credited with playing a key role in the transmission of Rikyu's ideals of chado its survival to the present day is thought to be due in large part to his efforts. Sotan lived an austere, refined life based on his belief that the essence of chado and Zen are the same. His simple tea implements reflect his deep wabi philosophy, but he also designed a few gorgeous pieces which reflect the spirit of the exuberant Kan'ei period and his relationship to the imperial court.
      In 1646, Sotan retired, and Sosa became the head of the family. At the back of the property, Sotan built a small tea hut, Konnichian. Later, he also built the Yuin and Kan'untei tea rooms, creating a compound separated from the main house. Sotan died in 1658, at the age of eighty-one. His memorial is annually observed at Urasenke on November 19.

Sotan's fourth son, Senso, inherited the property containing the Konnichian tea hut, where he established the household which later became referred to as the Urasenke as distinguished from the household headed by Sotan's third son, Sosa, referred to as the Omotesenke. This was during the peaceful and culturally effervescent Genroku period. He served as chado magistrate for MAEDA Toshitsune, lord of Kaga (present-day Ishikawa and Toyama Prefectures), and helped to establish a flourishing tea culture in the region. Senso took the potter Chozaemon, who worked under the 4th generation in the Raku line, Ichinyu, to Kaga, where Chozaemon established the Ohi kiln to produce tea ceramics. Senso also encouraged MIYAZAKI Kanchi to establish a foundry to cast tea kettles there.
      In the early 1670s, his brothers Sosa and Soshu, heads of Omotesenke and Mushakojisenke, respectively, passed away, leaving him the sole elder of the three families. In that capacity, he held the important thirteenth memorial anniversary for his father and one-hundredth anniversary for Rikyu.

Senso's first son and successor is generally known by his names Fukyusai Joso. He inherited his father's position as chado magistrate for the Kaga Maeda daimyo family, headquartered at Kanazawa Castle, and also became head of chanoyu affairs for the Iyo Hisamatsu daimyo family, who occupied Matsuyama Castle (in present-day Ehime Prefecture). After his father's death, he used the name Soshitsu that his father had used as a teacher of chado, establishing the tradition for the head master of the Urasenke chado tradition to use that name. Although he died at the age of thirty-two, having been the head of Urasenke for only seven years, he left behind a number of outstanding tea implements of his own creation or design.

The sixth head of Urasenke is generally known by his name Rikkansai. Because his father passed away at an early age, he received his training from Kakukakusai Genso, the sixth head of Omotesenke. Carrying on his father's appointments, Rikkansai served both the Maeda and Hisamatsu clans.
      Rikkansai was well versed in the Chinese classics, noh, and kyogen, and was skilled in calligraphy and making tea bowls. Owing largely to the patronage of his wealthy disciples, he developed a highly-refined artistic sense. Sadly, however, he died at the age of thirty-three.

After Rikkansai's untimely death, the seventeen-year-old second son of Kakukakusai Genso of Omotesenke was pressed into service to become the seventh head of Urasenke, known as Chikuso. Rikkansai's mother and Genso looked after him, and he also received guidance from his older brother, who later became the seventh generation head master of Omotesenke, Joshinsai. Unfortunately, Chikuso died at the age of twenty-five, without having married.

Left without an heir, the Urasenke household again looked to the Omotesenke house for a successor. Chikuso's fourteen-year-old brother, Toichiro, was selected to become the eighth generation head of Urasenke, who was called Yugensai Itto. With his older brother Joshinsai, Itto underwent Zen training at Daitokuji temple under the guidance of the priests Daishin Gito, Dairyu Sojo, and Mugaku Soen. Together, the brothers created the shichijishiki, "seven training exercises," as a means to reemphasize chanoyu's spiritual aspect.
      Itto created many tea implements and wrote the treatise, Hama no Masago [Sand on the Beach]. He served the Hisamatsu clan and also the Hachisuka clan of Awa (present-day Tokushima). Also he helped to establish the Sen tradition in Edo and encouraged the expansion of the practice of chanoyu by sending a disciple, KANO Soboku, to Osaka and another disciple, HAYAMI Sotatsu, to Okayama.

The ninth generation in the Urasenke line is known as Fukensai Sekio. His major accomplishments were to restore the Urasenke property after the great fire of 1788 and to hold the bicentennial memorial observance for Rikyu in 1790. He had the statue of Rikyu, which was damaged in the fire, restored and rededicated by the priest Mugaku of Daitokuji in time for the memorial.
      Fukensai worked diligently to counteract the shift of the center of culture from Kyoto to Edo. He lived to the age of fifty-five. His first son became the tenth generation head of Urasenke, Nintokusai, and his third son became the sixth head of Mushakojisenke, Kokosai.

Fukensai's eldest son, generally known as Nintokusai, became the tenth in the Urasenke line at the age of thirty-four. Nintokusai's first son died unexpectedly in 1811, and although he had five other sons, they all died before reaching adulthood. Both his wife, Shoshitsu Soko, and daughter Teruko were serious practitioners of chado. Nintokusai was known as a strict father and teacher.

Gengensai lived during the years leading into the Meiji Era (1868-1912), a time of dramatic political and cultural change in Japan. This turbulent period saw the collapse of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the move of the emperor from Kyoto to the new capital, Tokyo (until then called Edo), Japan's all-out adoption of Western civilization, and the country's development into a modern state. Amid these circumstances, his major achievements included his success in convincing the new Meiji Government that it should officially recognize chado as a serious cultural and spiritual pursuit. This was when the Government was about to classify chado as a mere form of recreation. Gengensai is also credited as the originator of the ryurei style of chanoyu, which employs tables and stools. As for Urasenke itself, on the occasion of the 250th memorial for Sen Rikyu, he had the Totsutsusai, Dairo-no-ma, Hosensai, and Ryuseiken rooms added to the Konnichian compound, and also built the Kabutomon "Helmet Gate," which became a symbol of the Urasenke head house. Because of his success in maintaining the vitality of chado in the new age, he is often referred to as the Father of the Restoration of Chado.
      This particularly prominent figure in the Urasenke line, and in chanoyu history altogether, was the adopted heir of Nintokusai. His natural father was the 7th-generation head of the Ogyu Matsudaira family, a branch of one of the original Matsudaira lineages from which evolved the Tokugawa family. He was adopted by Nintokusai when he was nine years old and Nintokusai, whose only surviving offspring were girls, was already fifty. Nintokusai, taking into account the daimyo-family background of his new adopted son, saw to it that the boy was educated in the various fields of textbook learning of the time, as well as poetry, music, and other traditional cultural refinements. Nintokusai passed away seven years later, and thus Gengensai became the head of Urasenke when he was only sixteen.
      As the family head, he continued the family's hereditary posts as chanoyu magistrate for the Kaga Maeda daimyo family, headquartered at Kanazawa Castle, and the Iyo Hisamatsu daimyo family, who occupied Matsuyama Castle. Also, one of his brothers had become the adopted heir of the 10th-generation head of the Watanabe family which served as advisors to the Owari Tokugawa family, one of the three main branches of the shogunal Tokugawa family. Owing to this connection, Gengensai received the patronage of the 12th-generation head of the Owari Tokugawa family, headquartered at Nagoya Castle. On occasion, he also served tea to members of the imperial family, and furthermore, he was closely acquainted with many influential townspeople. Between Gengensai and Nintokusai's daughter, who Gengensai took as his bride, there was born one boy. Tragically, however, the boy died at the age of sixteen. Consequently, when Gengensai was past sixty, he had his daughter marry a young man who would be his successor.

Yumyosai was born as the second son of the head of the prominent Suminokura family of Kyoto. He married Gengensai's daughter Yukako in 1871, when he was nineteen years old. This was just when the new government reforms were being put into effect and, among other things, the daimyo were displaced and their domains made into prefectures, and schooling became available to the masses, men and women alike. For Urasenke, the reforms had a devastating impact, as the family lost the stipends it had traditionally received from the daimyo families whom it had served through the generations as chanoyu magistrate. Amid this dark era, in 1885 Yumyosai, at the age of thirty-seven, turned the headship of the house over to his eldest son and retired to Myokian temple in Yamazaki. Yukako, who is known as Shinseiin, worked actively to have chado included in the curriculum of the newly established girls' secondary schools.

The son of Yumyosai and Yukako, Komakichi, became the head of Urasenke at the age of twelve. He is generally known as Ennosai, and also had the names Tetchu and Tairyu. After his marriage in 1889, he and his wife traveled to Tokyo to seek opportunities in the new capital. He devoted his energies to preserving and restoring Urasenke's cultural assets, which were on the verge of ruin after the Meiji Restoration. A liberal thinker, he published the magazine Konnichian Geppo [Konnichian Monthly Bulletin] to disseminate chado information, began the summer intensive seminar program to give students the opportunity to study at the headquarters, and systemized the curriculum to appeal to more people, especially women and students.
      Ennosai passed away at the age of fifty-three, during the thirteenth annual summer seminar. His wife, Mokkyoan Soko, who had supported his efforts and worked with him to invigorate chado, passed away the following year, 1925.

Ennosai's first son, Masanosuke, was born in Tokyo in 1893. He graduated from Doshisha University in Kyoto and, in 1923, was formally recognized as heir apparent one year before his father suddenly passed away. In 1925, he took Buddhist vows under Abbot MARUYAMA Denne of Daitokuji temple, from whom he received the name Mugensai. Later, a member of the aristocratic Kujo family gave him the name Tantansai, by which he is usually known.
      Tantansai presented tea to foreign dignitaries and members of the Imperial Family, including Empress Teimei and Crown Prince Akihito. He revived the custom of presenting kencha, "ritual tea offerings," at well-known temples and shrines (the first was at the Grand Shrine at Ise), which sparked interest in chado throughout the country.
      Tantansai's konomimono, "favored objects," are particularly numerous. Among his favored tea houses are the Toinseki, Kan'utei, Gyokushuan, Zuishinken, Bounseki, Seikoan, and Kojitsuken.
      After leading chado followers through the desolate period for cultural activities during and after World War II, he devoted himself to restoring it to prosperity. Also, he was one of the first in the country to turn his attention to the dissemination of Japanese culture overseas. He sent his son to the United States of America and Europe to introduce chado. Later, he himself traveled to the U.S.A. and Europe on chado missions.
      With the aim of unifying and encouraging the practitioners of the Urasenke tradition, Tantansai established the national membership association Chado Urasenke Tankokai, Inc. (now the Urasenke Tankokai Federation, an international Urasenke membership organization), in 1940. Nine years later, he founded the nonprofit organization Zaidan Hojin Konnichian (called Urasenke Foundation in English), thereby incorporating the Sen family's estate and cultural assets.
      For his efforts to further Japanese culture and chado, he was awarded the Medal of Honor with Blue Ribbon by the Emperor of Japan in 1957. In the same year, he also became the first leader in the chado world to be awarded the Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon. In 1960, he received the decoration, Person of Cultural Merits.
      Tantansai was active in many fields, including publishing. He expanded the Konnichian Geppo, which was renamed Chado Geppo [Monthly Bulletin of the Way of Tea], and edited and published the monumental work, Chado Koten Zenshu [Complete Collection of Chado Classics].
      On September 7, 1964, Tantansai passed away during a trip to Hokkaido. He was seventy years old. He was presented posthumously with the Order of the Rising Sun, Third Class. His memorial is annually observed on July 5, jointly with that for Gengensai and Ennosai.

Mugensai&rsquos first son, named Masaoki at birth, was born on April 19, 1923. He has had the names Soko, Soshitsu, and Genshitsu. His bynames include Hounsai, Genshu, Kyoshin, and Hanso. After serving in the air force division of the Japanese navy during WWII, he completed his temporarily interrupted university education at Doshisha University, Kyoto, graduating from the Faculty of Economics, He undertook Zen training and took the Buddhist tonsure under Goto Zuigan of Daitokuji temple, and was confirmed as Urasenke heir apparent in 1950. He succeeded as the fifteenth-generation head of Urasenke in 1964, upon his father&rsquos death.
      Hounsai has left a legacy of overseas Tankokai associations and has donated tea houses and tea rooms worldwide. He has proposed that chado is rooted in the combination of the way/principle (do), study/learning (gaku), and practice/practical skill (jitsu). He has personally been a dedicated student of the history and culture of tea, and holds a Ph.D. from Nankai University, China, awarded to him in 1991 for his successful defense of his thesis concerning the influence of the Cha Jing, by Lu Yu (8th c.), on the development of Japan's chado culture, and a Litt.D. from Chung-Ang University, Korea, awarded to him in 2008.
      He was the first in the chado world to be awarded the Order of Culture by the Emperor of Japan, and has been awarded many other decorations and merits from Japan and countries across the world. In 2002, he turned the headship of Urasenke over to his son, Zabosai, and took the name Genshitsu, but he continues to actively promote his goal, capsulized in the phrase, &ldquoPeacefulness through a bowl of tea,&rdquo by sharing chado internationally.

Zabosai was born on June 7, 1956, as Hounsai’s first son. His birth name was Masayuki. He has had the names Soshi and Soshitsu, and his bynames include Zabosai and Genmoku. He took the Buddhist tonsure under Nakamura Sojun of Daitokuji temple, and was confirmed as Urasenke heir apparent in 1982. In 2002, he succeeded as the sixteenth-generation head of Urasenke, and took the name Soshitsu. He has since put much energy into the education of younger tea practitioners and sought to clarify chado culture for all. He also fulfills his duties as head of Urasenke. In 2003, he held the 300th memorial observance for the fifth head of Urasenke, Fukyusai Joso in 2007, the 350th memorial observance for the grandson of Sen Rikyu, Genpaku Sotan and in 2020, the 250th memorial of the 8th head of Urasenke, Yugensai Itto at Daitokuji temple.

This article features excerpts from the Urasenke Tea Procedure Guidebook 1: Introductory Level,
from Tankosha Publishing Co.


Death of a Tea Master

Death of a Tea Master (Japanese: 千利休 本覺坊遺文 , Sen no Rikyu: Honkakubô ibun also known as Sen no Rikyū: Honkakubo's Student Writings) is a 1989 Japanese biographical drama film directed by Kei Kumai. [1] It is based on real life events of Sen no Rikyū, particularly the events surrounding his ritual suicide. It was entered into the main competition at the 43rd Venice International Film Festival, in which it won the Silver Lion. [2]

The film has yet to see an NTSC home media release, but there are other formats with English subtitles. [3]

  1. ^"映画監督の熊井啓氏が死去". Fuji Sankei Shinbun . Retrieved 2 November 2019 .
  2. ^
  3. Enrico Lancia (1998). I premi del cinema. Gremese Editore, 1998. ISBN8877422211 .
  4. ^http://www.japanesesamuraidvd.com/.sc/ms/dd/ee/882/Death%20of%20A%20Tea%20Master%20-%20Toshiro%20Mifune%20-%201989%20Remastered

This 1980s drama film–related article is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.


Review/Film In Old Japan, a Soldier and a Master Clash on the Way of Tea

Hiroshi Teshigahara's beautiful, very fine "Rikyu" reveals itself with a cherished Japanese kind of reluctance to impose on the stranger.

The time is the late 16th century, one of the most tumultuous eras in Japanese history, when a petty warlord named Hideyoshi Toyotomi, whose mother was a peasant, fought his way up to become the most powerful man in the country.

In a series of battles and through diplomatic maneuvers, Hideyoshi defeated all rivals to unify the warring provinces into the nation that was to become modern Japan. One of his first tasks was the construction, in 1583, of the great castle that still dominates Osaka.

In addition to being a soldier and a military strategist who had world conquest in mind, Hideyoshi was also an innovative political administrator. He revised tax laws, encouraged foreign trade and instituted a series of land surveys.

Mindful of the unsettling results of his own ascent, he then attempted to freeze the class structure by forbidding anyone to change his occupation. Hideyoshi died in 1598 in Korea, in a campaign whose aim was the subjugation of China.

Only a few of these facts will be found in "Rikyu," whose method is indirect. It charts a time of violent change not in grand, Kurosawa-like battles and court intrigue, but in the private relationship of two remarkable men.

Though the confrontation is deadly, the film's surface is mannered, serene. It's as if "Rikyu," like its main characters, is observing the rules of a society in which gestures must never betray the appearance of equilibrium.

On one side of the struggle is Hideyoshi (Tsutomu Yamazaki), the rough, brilliant parvenu who aspires to cultural refinements suitable to his new station in life. On the other side is Sen-no Rikyu (Rentaro Mikuni), the master who is credited with having made the Japanese tea ceremony into a ritual of Zen Buddhist simplicity and intensity.

When the film starts, Hideyoshi has been a student of Rikyu for five years. What is called the Way of Tea is something much more complicated than handling cups, pots and heat sources without spillage. It's not to be learned in a crash course. It takes time, rather like Freudian analysis. There are no shortcuts.

As Rikyu demonstrates, the Way of Tea is a way of comprehending the universe. It informs the spirit that governs the consciousness that dictates behavior. In the course of his apprenticeship, Hideyoshi learns all of the right gestures, while refusing to deny the pre-eminence of his ambitions in the world.

A break becomes inevitable when Hideyoshi, who seeks his teacher's approval in all things, demands that Rikyu endorse the planned conquest of China. The old man politely equivocates. Hideyoshi's advisers, afraid of Rikyu's influence, scheme to have him exiled from the court.

This could be called the plot if "Rikyu" were in any way a conventional film, which it isn't. Though it is magnificent to look at, "Rikyu" proceeds with a minimum of cinematic flourishes. Everything is condensed, simplified, each sequence being utterly specific but also of general significance.

It's not the kind of movie with which most of us are familiar. It demands that the audience look at it with a willingness to submit to its tempo, which is measured, and to a consideration of its concerns: art and politics, action and contemplation, flesh and spirit.

These concerns are not exactly esoteric, but their importance may seem to be.

Juzo Itami, the director of "The Funeral," "Tampopo" and "A Taxing Woman," once described the differences between Japanese and American films as reflecting the fundamental natures of the two societies. American films, he said, tend to be richer, more packed with narrative detail, in order to be comprehensible to audiences of a great variety of ethnic, economic and educational backgrounds.

"Living in Japan," he said, "is like living in a nation of twins." Because everyone shares the same cultural influences, Japanese film makers can work in a kind of shorthand. A word, a mannerism or a visual reference can carry information that would require sometimes lengthy, particular explanation in an American film.

"Rikyu" is just the sort of Japanese film Mr. Itami was talking about. Audiences in Japan come to it already familiar with Hideyoshi and the age he briefly dominated, and probably also aware of Rikyu and his fate.

As a result, the film is less a recapitulation of the story than a reconsideration of it from the vantage point of someone living through Japan's late 20th-century economic boom. "Rikyu" will demand a certain amount of devoted concentration of American moviegoers, but the rewards are there.

Mr. Teshigahara is best known in this country for his austere parable, "Woman in the Dunes," based on the Kobo Abe novel, released here in 1963. He is also a director of documentaries, including "Jose Torres" (1959), which he shot in this country, and "Antonio Gaudi" (1984).

His interests are not tied to commercial films. He is also a sculptor, ceramicist, environmental artist and flower arranger. In 1980, he succeeded his father as the grand master of the Sogetsu International School of flower arranging. That's a fairly wild background for movie making today.

Yet each of these activities comes to bear at one point or another in "Rikyu." There's always an awareness of design, color, texture. There are few close-ups. Man is seen in relation to the rooms, houses, palaces or landscapes he inhabits.

What would be crises of emotion in another film are treated formally, as if in public, distant in the way of something remembered, not re-created.

The movie is very studied, and means to be. Nothing seems spontaneous, but neither is it lugubrious.

This is exemplified in the elegant performances of Mr. Yamazaki, the hip star of "The Funeral," "Tampopo" and "A Taxing Woman," and Mr. Mikuni, who is memorable as the old con artist with the Lolita complex in Mr. Itami's "Taxing Woman Returns."

In the production notes that accompany "Rikyu," Mr. Teshigahara admits to having initially had "a sense of impatience" with the tea ceremony.

He became interested in it, he says, through what he found to be the perfection of antique ceramic bowls, created to meet the requirements of the ceremony as it evolved largely through the influence of Rikyu.

His film won't send anyone out of the theater in a headlong rush to find a tea ceremony. It is a leisurely, contemplative work that is its own best, Zen-like explanation. The effect is liberating.

"Rikyu" opens today at the Lincoln Plaza 2. Rikyu Directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara screenplay (Japanese with English subtitles) by Genpei Akasegawa and Mr. Teshigahara, based on a book by Yaeko Nogami photographed by Fujio Morita music by Toru Takemitsu produced by Yoshisuke Mae and Hiroshi Morie released by Capitol Entertainment . At Lincoln Plaza 2, Broadway at 63d Street, in Manhattan. Running time: 116 minutes. This film has no rating. Sen-no Rikyu . . . Rentaro Mikuni Hideyoshi Toyotomi . . . Tsutomu Yamazaki Riki . . . Yoshiko Mita Kita-no-mandokoro . . . Kyoko Kishida Nobunaga Oda . . . Koshiro Matsumoto Ieyasu Tokugawa . . . Kichiemon Nakamura


Sen no Rikyu, usually referred to as just Rikyu, was born in Sakai, Osaka during the year 1522. His contributions to chanoyu, the Japanese tea ceremony, has made him a highly significant figure in Japanese history.

According to records, Sen no Rikyu&rsquos father, known as Tanaka Yohei before he changed his last name to Sen, lived as a wealthy warehouse owner and was married to Tomomi Tayuki. Sen no Rikyu was often referred to as Yoshiro, a nickname often used for the eldest son of a Japanese family, when he was a child.

Being situated between the Osaka Bay and the Yamato River, the area of Sakai served as one of Japan&rsquos primary locations for foreign and inland trading. At the time, it was considered to be among the country&rsquos richest cities.

Ikyuu Sojun, a popular Zen Buddhist priest, loved the city&rsquos energy and lived there for the majority of his life. He was known for being a great poet, and one of the founding fathers of the ancient Japanese tea ceremony. As such, Sakai was regarded as the main center for chanoyu.

It makes sense, then, why Sen no Rikyu became interested in Japanese tea at an early age. He first studied it under the guidance of Kitamuki Dochin, a Sakai Townsman, during his youth.

By the age of nineteen, he was introduced to Takeno Joo by Kitamuki Dochin and became even more interested in the dynamics of Japanese tea ceremonies. Around the same time, Sen no Rikyu met and fell in love with a woman named Hoshin Myoju, who he married about two years later at the age of twenty-one.

From this point on up to his late fifties, not a lot of reliable information can be found regarding how he lived his life during his supposed peak years.

Existing documents only trace back to the accomplishments he did from the age of fifty-eight and onwards. These articles discuss how Sen no Rikyu was regarded as the master of Japanese tea by Oda Nobunaga during the year 1579. After Oda Nobunaga&rsquos death three years later, Sen no Rikyu then served as Toyotomi Hideyoshi&rsquos tea master.

He did not have a hard time building a strong relationship with Toyotomi Hideyoshi and was soon able to be a part of his inner circle. His inclusion in Toyotomi Hideyoshi&rsquos group of confidants also serves as his defining moment as an incredibly influential person in the world of traditional Japanese tea ceremonies.

In fact, he was granted the title Rikyu Koji by the emperor for him to fully establish his role as a tea master and separate himself from other practitioners. This distinction was needed in order for Toyotomi Hideyoshi to bring Sen no Rikyu to an important gathering with Emperor Ogimachi at the Imperial Palace.

All in all, Sen no Rikyu lived as a poet, writer, and renowned tea master of his time. He had students of his own, of which the two most popular were Nanbo Sokei and Yamanoue Soji.

A year before the Odawara Siege in 1590, Yamanoue Soji was tortured and killed by the order of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The reason behind this incident remains unknown up to this day and is considered to be a great mystery given the role of Sen no Rikyu as Toyotomi Hideyoshi&rsquos confidant. The majority of

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Completion of Wabicha in the teahouse “Taian (National Treasure)”

The spirit of Wabicha that Rikyu perfected is condensed into the tea room designed by Rikyu, called “Taian (National Treasure)”.

“Taian” is a two tatami mat size teahouse designed based on the aesthetics of Rikyu by removing unnecessary elements to the utmost extent.

In particular, the spirit of the tea ceremony that Rikyu valued the most is expressed in the creation of the “nijiri-guchi (entrance)”.

It is a narrow entrance located in a low position. Even high class samurai cannot enter unless they are in a posture that makes them crawl by taking off their swords and lowering their heads.

Nijiri-guchi shows that everyone who attends Chanoyu is equal regardless of their social status.

Chanoyu in samurai society

Nobunaga encouraged his vassals to participate in the tea ceremony. Only the vassals who were given permission were allowed to hold tea ceremonies, and they were given expensive tea bowls as rewards for their military exploits.

He made it a status of samurai to have famous tea utensils and to be proficient in Chanoyu.

As a result, the value of famous tea utensils has come to be equal to the lives of warlords as well as to the country.

When Nobunaga, who had an advantage in the battle with a warlord, told that his life would be saved if he handed over his famous teakettle, that warlord said “I cannot give you my teakettle” Then, the warlord put an explosive in his teakettle and blew himself up. This was an unbelievable story that showed Chanoyu had become the status of the samurai.


The Death of Sen Rikyu and the Birth of a Teabowl

In a single moment he was dead, a victim of seppuku. Nothing could have prevented it not the pleadings of Hideyoshi’s wife and daughter, not the intercession of samurai generals and Tea masters alike – nothing.

In preparation for this post I Googled “Sen Rikyu” and found 133,000 entries. (Now in 2013 there are 204,000) What more can be said? I am certainly not an expert on Sen Rikyu, but because he is near the heart of some of those aspects of Tea that interest me most. I have been reading about him and Toyotomi Hideyoshi for many years. To me, the ramifications that followed the death of Sen no Rikyu and their connection to Korea make that instant a key moment in teabowl history.

It is also interesting that of all the things written about Sen no Rikyu, one thing seems to puzzle writers most. Why did Toyotomi Hideyoshi command Sen Rikyu, this great man of Tea, to commit ritual suicide? In 1989, Japan made a movie to explore this question. The movie, Sen No Rikyu: The Death of a Tea Master, was highly rated but the question remains. (The movie is available on the web for a price.)
On the 28th day of the 2nd month of 1591 at his residence in Jurakudai, the palace he had helped to build, Sen no Rikyu wrote the following poem, raised his sword and carried out the command.

A life of seventy years,
strength spent to the very last.
With this my jeweled sword,
I kill both patriarchs and buddhas.
I yet carry one article I had gained,
the long sword and now at this moment
I hurl it to the heavens
A Biography of Sen Rikyu, Murai

There are other dissimilar translations. Two follow:

Welcome to thee,
O sword of eternity!
Through Buddha
And through Daruma alike
Thou hast cleft thy way.
Japanese Tea Ceremony. net

I raise the sword,
This sword of mine,
Long in my possession
The time is come at last.
Skyward I throw it up!
translation: Suzuki Dasetsu

A full ceremonial seppuku always has a death poem. (jisei no ku 辞世の句). That there are at least three different translations of Sen no Rikyu’s death poem underscores the confusion surrounding his death.
Many have speculated as to why Toyotomi Hideyoshi ordered Sen no Rikyu to commit seppuku (切腹). You may also be wondering why a blog on teabowls, such as this, would deal with such an issue.

Why did I, on this April day 2010, decide to address this morbid issue and post this blog on Sen Rikyu? I certainly do not enjoy morose thoughts.
I chose Sen no Rikyu because, particularly in the Western world, we cannot think about Teabowls without thinking about the contributions of Sen Rikyu. April is the month of Sen Rikyu’s birth – April 21, 1581. Of course that may be the Chinese calendar.
The death of Sen no Rikyu has intrigued me for years, not because I enjoyed the topic, but because, in my mind, seeking the answer to the question, “Why?” and the aftermath of the deed, are keys to understanding the influence of Korea on Japanese teabowls and indeed Japanese ceramics in general.

So why did the most powerful man in Japan the great Taiko ask his beloved tea master to commit seppuku?
There are many possible reasons. I come to the following possibilities because they have been “collecting” over the years from readings, and discussions with Zen scholars of Japanese history and other learned people.

From: Japan’s Hidden History: Korean Impact on Japanese Culture, Jon Carter and Alan Covell

Was it because a statue of Sen no Rikyu had been placed on the second floor of an important building above Hideyoshi’s statue that was on the first floor? Hideyoshi became so enraged that he ordered that building burned to the ground only for it to be saved by the suggestion that Sen Rikyu’s stature be removed instead. To burn it would have enraged too many others. Some think it was because Sen no Rikyu refused Hideyoshi’s request to take Rikyu’s daughter, the beautiful Lady Ogin, as a concubine. Perhaps it was because Lady Ogin had an unrequited love for Lord Ukon, who angered Hideyoshi by becoming a Christian convert. The movie Sen No Rikyu: The Death of a Tea Master suggests this as a possible answer. Hideyoshi, being Buddhist, reportedly did not like many Christians. However, after Sen Rikyu’s death he chose Furuta Oribe to be his tea master. Oribe was a Christian.
Sen no Rikyu strongly disapproved of Hideyoshi’s desire to invade Korea and China. Rikyu argued vigorously against this war and died a year before the invasion. Was that the reason?
Although Toyotomi Hideyoshi had been named Taiko – Absolute Ruler in the Emperor’s name – and thus achieved unparallel military power throughout Japan, he had always suffered because of his personal physical appearance. In addition Hideyoshi could never fully deny his own humble beginnings. Not being of noble birth, Hideyoshi could never be what he truly wanted – to be Shogun. Short and thin, Hideyoshi’s sunken features were likened to that of a monkey. Oda Nobunaga, a great warrior, but less than tactful man (for whom Sen no Rikyu was tea master before Hideyoshi), often called Toyotomi little Saru (monkey) and the ‘bald rat’. That would have surely bothered Hideyoshi. Finally there was the rumor some Japanese scholars say was true. Hideyoshi had syphilis of the brain and was slowly going insane. You may not read the latter reason in many accounts, certainly not Japanese ones, but a leading unbiased Japanese scholar told me this personally. Clearly, Hideyoshi had become jealous of his once beloved advisor and confidant. After all Hideyoshi was Taiko. Sen no Rikyu was merely a Tea master. Hideyoshi should receive all the accolades, love and praise.
Sen no Rikyu by contrast was beloved by all who knew him, at peace with himself, had achieved his life goals and was a true man of Zen and of Zen Tea. Even with great power, how can you really compete with that? Are these all not reasons for Hideyoshi, particularly if he was going insane, to command Sen no Rikyu to commit seppuku?
Ironically it took place at Jurakudai – the Palace of Pleasure that Sen no Rikyu helped to build. There was no pleasure in the palace that day – not even for Hideyoshi. He regretted his command.
As stated earlier, I begin to write about the great tea master Sen no Rikyu at the end of his life because, frankly, so much has already been written about Sen no Rikyu that there is little to add. Knowledge of how he died helps to clarify for me a great deal in the history of tea bowls. But unfortunately much remains unclear.
I will go back in history a few years in Sen Rikyu’s life and tell a story that I have also researched for many years. You may already know some or even this entire story or you may have never heard it. In any case it demands retelling – even if it too will remain confusing.
Allow me to set the stage. For part of this story Oda Nobunaga is alive and Sen no Rikyu is his tea master. I have already mentioned that after the death of Oda Nobunaga, under whom Sen no Rikyu was tea master, Sen no Rikyu became tea master for Toyotomi Hideyoshi. In 1586 Hideyoshi began construction of Jurakudai – the Palace of Pleasure. As part of the building process Hideyoshi asked Sen no Rikyu to purchase roof tiles for the palace.
To do this, Sen no Rikyu visited the family of his old friends Ameya the rooftile maker and potter and Teirin, Ameya’s wife, who worked at his side. Sen no Rikyu had met them earlier when he was tea master for Oda Nobunage and had brought some attention to their work. Ameya, who had been called Sokei or Masakichi, was a Korean who immigrated to Japan around 1520 and married Teirin. On Sokei’s (Ameya’s) death (about 1560), Teirin became a nun and changed her style of work to Ama-yaki or nun’s ware. Chojiro and Jokei, their two sons, worked with her. Chojiro was already a potter and rooftile maker of some renown.
One account says that Sen no Rikyu had actually given Sokei and Teirin his old family name “Tanaka” after Rikyu had changed his name to “Sen”. Another account says that Rikyu’s family name “Tanaka” was given to the two sons. In any case there was a close relationship between Sen no Rikyu and Chojiro.
The name Sen, that Rikyu adopted, came from his grandfather Sen-Ami. Sen-Ami was also a Korean immigrant married to a Japanese lady. This made Sen no Rikyu ¼ Korean. Sen-Ami, Rikyu’s grandfather, was an aesthete working for Ashikaga Yoshimasa a local waolord. Various scholars speculate that some of the more natural teachings of Sen Rikyu’s aesthetics came from his Korean grandfather since they are almost identical to many earlier Korean aesthetic principals.
You may know that Sen no Rikyu commissioned Chojiro to make teabowls. Formed by hand with a simple glaze, these bowls had a natural feel and suited wabi-cha well. For many years these bowls were known as ima-yaki “now ware” since they were pulled from the kiln immediately after the glaze matured. Some even referred to these teabowls as Hasami-yaki or (tongs ware) since tongs were used in the firing process. This ware was so loved by the palace and by Hideyoshi that Chojiro’s bowls could not be sold to the general public.
After Chojiro’s death in 1589, Toyotomi Hideyoshi was so saddened and moved that he presented the brother Jokei with a seal on which was the word RAKU meaning “pleasure”. The word was derived from the name of the palace Jurakudai. The same place where Rikyu was ordered to commit seppuku. This is the same palace for which Sen no Rikyu bought roof tiles from Chojiro.
I wonder if Sen no Rikyu knew that Hideyoshi would have the roof tiles covered with gold leaf? Sen no Rikyu and Hideyoshi often had different aesthetic tastes – Hideyoshi more extravagant and Rikyu more humble.
The Tanaka family was so touched by the gift of this RAKU seal from the great Taiko that they changed their family name to Raku. That family became the Raku family dynasty that continues today in Kyoto, Japan. There they continue to produce Raku teabowls after fifteen generations.

From The World of Korean Ceramics, Jon and Alan Covell

This Raku bowl is by Chojiro. Since none of Chojiro’s bowls were available for purchase by the public. It is highly likely that Sen no Rikyu used this bowl perhaps while serving Tea to Hideyoshi. The bowl is a great example of Chojiro’s work and the aesthetics of Sen Rikyu’s wabi-cha. Formed by hand and glazed with a simple transparent glaze there is a softness to the feel of this and all Raku bowls that suits them well to Tea.

Since not all of Chojiro’s red bowls have smoke marking, it is presumed that such markings may have initially occurred accidentally after the bowl was withdrawn from the kiln, while the glaze was still molten, and placed on some wood or brush that happened to be on the ground nearby. To quote from the Raku Family web site:

The form achieved in his tea bowls is a manifestation of spirituality, reflecting most directly the ideals of wabi advocated by Sen no Rikyu as much as the philosophy of Zen, Buddhism and Taoism. Chojiro, through his negation of movement, decoration and variation of form, went beyond the boundaries of individualistic expression and elevated the teabowl into a spiritual abstraction and an intensified presence.

Sen Rikyu, in life, helped to give birth to the humble tea bowls we know today as Raku.

On Sen Rikyu’s death, no one remained to argue with Hideyoshi against the invasion of Korea and the devastating Imjin War (Bunroku no eki). That war led to the death of approximately 3,000,000 people in Korea. Far more lives were lost than in any modern war. The stories of that war are horrific beyond comprehension. The war led to the dislocation of somewhere between 60,000 and 90,000 people of all types, men, women, children, scholars, poets and craftspeople of all types including an estimated 2000 potters who set up studios for many warlords in Japan. In the process the Korean potters founded numerous pottery villages. Many of those villages remain in Japan today. In a strange twist of fate it is possible to argue that had Sen no Rikyu not died and had been able to persuade Hideyoshi to not attempt to conquer Korea and China the face of both Korean and Japanese ceramics and specifically tea bowls, would be vastly different today.

Originally I was going to post this on April 1st but decided to postpone it a few days because of the odd significance of that day in the USA – perhaps beyond. I decided to look once more at the official Raku Family website and discovered that they, on April 1, 2010, had drastically changed their web site from what it had been for many years. It was a joke on me. Even much of the information had changed. It is not my intent to disrespect those who choose the content of the official Raku Family website. After considerable thought and conscious searching, I decided to present on my post the information I have been collecting on this story for many years. It comes from several sources that have also been doing research on the subject.

Notably one source is now on line in the 1901 book Japan Its History Arts and Literature Vol VIII Keramic Art by Captain F. Brinkley. Much but not all of his information is confirmed by other authors. Please also compare his Raku family linage on page 36 Japan History with the official Raku site.

If you go to the new Raku Family website, you will not learn that they have any Korean roots. Rather, they report that their roots are part Chinese and discuss evidence to prove it. For many years it has been the practice for Japanese people to deny the influence of Korea on their culture and/or that they might be themselves part Korean. One scholar told me that this practice is like denying the influence of African Americans on Jazz, particularly in the area of ceramics.

Was Chojiro part Korean or part Chinese? Were Chojiro and Jokei actually brothers? Did Sen no Rikyu give his family name Tanaka to Ameya or to Chojiro or not at all? (Just a few years ago Koreans who lived in Japan and did not change their name to a Japanese name could not own property – even if their family had lived in Japan for centuries.) In the final analysis, none of the facts of my post really matter. What we can agree on is the importance of the relationship of Sen no Rikyu to Chjiro and Jokei and the birth of a tea bowl that became Raku.

This is simply a blog. It is not a doctorial dissertation nor is it a book, both of which should require much more documentation. It was originally written to help clarify some things in my own mind about Sen Rikyu’s death and the impact on Korean and Japanese tea bowls – not to confuse the history of Raku. After all the real purpose of this blog is simply to think about and enjoy some teabowls.

The term “Raku” should not be confused with the Western ware inspired by Raku and developed principally by Paul Soldner that we know as “raku”. After watching Paul Soldner demonstrate his process, the great teabowl master Raku Kakunyu XIV spoke with Soldner and said , “It is an interesting process but it is not Raku. I am Raku.” This story came directly from Paul.

While the above Chojiro Raku teabowl is truly a great one. it is not the the bowl that first inspired me to think about writing about Sen Rikyu. That bowl was a Korean Goryeo Dynasty celadon bowl that I did not include in my last post. This celadon bowl was officially documented as having been used by Sen Rikyu. Japan keeps very extensive records on official tea ceremonies. Reportedly Korean bowls were used the majority of the time.

From The World of Korean Ceramics, Jon and Alan Covell

Known as the Naniwazutsu, this celadon bowl is very different from those on my celadon teabowl post. First it is not an ‘open’ form but is upright. Celadon was made throughout Korea during the Goryeo Dynasty and although many of the “finest” celadon came from Gangjin it is immediately clear from the crackled glaze that this piece does not come from Gangjin. This bowl is too unrefined.

That is how it should be for a Sen no Rikyu bowl. Although Goryeo celadon is known for its sophistication. There is something about this Goryeo bowl that remains humble. Is it the slightly pock marked surface with its partially under-reduced tea stained crazed glaze or the innocently carved and inlaid ‘sang hwa mun‘ cranes, ironic symbols for long life – while Sen Rikyu’s life was shortened? Is it the simple stamped chrysanthemum a symbol for cheer and optimism – and an object for meditation? Or is it the off-center form that we know fits the hand perfectly?

The Naniwazutsu feels like a bowl that is for quiet personal contemplation and meditation, not a bowl to be shared. I wonder if Sen no Rikyu used it in that way?

It is also one of those rare chawan that seems like a cross between a chawan (teabowl) and yunomi (watercup) in Japanese. Many Western potters don’t seem to understand or ignore the difference. That is a topic for another post.
In any case, I hope you enjoyed this post. Your comments and suggestions are encouraged and welcome.

Special thanks to Alan Covell for permission to post the photos from his books and the insights those books have been giving me. Dr. Jon Carter Covell, Alan’s mother was a close friend. We miss her insights into Japanese and Korean culture greatly.


Wa (Harmony)

A feeling of closeness with nature and people.

Kei (Respect)

A feeling of thankfulness to everyone and everything around them.

Sei (Purity)

A physical and spiritual sense of cleanliness and orderliness.

Jaku (Tranquility)

A feeling of "silence" that can be obtained by studying Tea, if you have reached the previous stages of Harmony, Respect, and Purity.

Later In life, Rikyu starting using very small tea rooms with only 2 tatami mats. After he developed his Wabi-cha philosophy, Rikyu started using black Raku tea bowls . Raku is a method that uses a quick but low heat process to create ceramics. Once Raku tea bowls were in place, he implemented other ideas like flower containers, tea scoops, utensils made of bamboo and other simple daily life items.

Sen Rikyu built a tea room called Tai-an in the 16th century. Tai-an is a 2-tatami mat tea room located in Myokian Zen temple in Kyoto, Japan. This is the only tea room built by Sen Rikyu that still stands to this day. It's also the oldest tea room in Japan. Tai-an is now a national treasure in Japan. Your required to give a 1 month reservation notice to view this tea room but even then you cannot go inside the tea room. This is one of Japan's most famous artifacts and the reason I chose to name my Matcha company after Sen Rikyu and his historical tea room Tai-an.

Sadly, do to imperative disagreements between Rikyu and a powerful lord named Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi sentenced Rikyu to commit suicide on February 2nd, 1591. Rikyu was a tea master under Hideyoshi for many years. Even after his death, Hideyoshi still passed on the philosophy and aesthetics Rikyu left behind.

His philosophy on the Japanese tea ceremony transformed the Japanese culture forever and how others looked at life itself through his beliefs of Wabi-cha. His philosophy and practices are still imprinted in tea rooms all throughout Japan. His life will continue to live through each generation of his family Lineage. In fact, there has been 13 generations of family decedents after Rikyu died that has passed down his legacy from generation to generation.


Suigetsu Artist: Sen-no-Rikyu (1570)

January 28, 2021 by Aidan Miles Read right to left, the first character (睡) means sleeping, drowsy, or even to die in certain contexts. he next character (月) means moon in this context. This character provides a contrast to the previous in its breathiness.

Sen-no-Rikyu (1522-1591) was enchanted and intoxicated by the moon, he felt drawn by its beauty: something so defiantly glowing against the deep darkness that spreads in all directions. In many regards this mimics one’s tea. Tea can provide a wonderful place of solace from a cold day outside, a gentle reprieve from the daily workload. Sen-no-Rikyu clearly found escape in art (as seen in his creation) but also in tea.

In the 16th century Sen-no-Rikyu formalized the Japanese tea ceremony, enriching it with integrity and effectively providing a wonderful social ritual, in turn, forever influencing tea drinking. From a young age he studied tea, eventually rising to tea master status and becoming a trusted confidant to Toytomi Hideyoshi, a shogun.

Sen-no-Rikyu was a part of the intellectual class of Japan at the time called the literati. This means he was interested in all forms of culture like art, literature, religion, and tea. This is clearly reflected in the beautiful work of ink calligraphy Sugietsu, translated as Intoxicated by the Moon. We see two large kanji and a smaller illegible character at the right, full of energy in their brushstroke, mirroring the dark depths of the night sky in their color.

Read right to left, the first character (睡) means sleeping, drowsy, or even to die in certain contexts. This first character, in contrast to its meaning, is full of energy, life, and direction. One can clearly see the power and confidence within each stroke. The character is also strong in its color, the black is deep, very few white splotches shine through any of the brush strokes. With this deepness and permanence, my mind goes to the night sky, an everlasting companion of all humans each day.

It watches over us with its impenetrable depths. This character is similar to the night sky in its strength and depth. These qualities of depth and strength directly mirror the meaning of the word: sleep and by extension intoxication or enchantment. This feeling of being drawn by a beautiful entity, a sight that is overwhelming in its complexities and contrasts, is also incredibly strong, It is confident within one’s mind, yet, full of energy like the brushstrokes above.

The next character (月) means moon in this context. This character provides a contrast to the previous in its breathiness. Its line is broken with splotches, little craters of white. This character is still full of energy and direction, but is not as permanent. It even is dwarfed by the size of the other. How can one not feel empathy for the moon in this context. It stands against the large character of sleep, an embodiment of the night sky, with gentleness and a semblance of confidence.

It is also made up of the same inky color as the night sky, but it shines proudly for all to see despite its inconsistent blemishes. The sky may be more permanent and deep than the moon but it is still intoxicated by the moon's beauty, maybe even jealous. After all, who is more enchanted by the night sky than the bright moon?

I look at this work of art and wonder how does this relate to the act of drinking tea? Being intoxicated by the moon is a very similar experience of being intoxicated by the beauty of one’s cup of tea. It sits in front of all of us, sending gentle curling mists upward, displaying rich colors of gold, green, brown, and red. Seeing the tightly rolled pearls unfurl gently over the course of a couple minutes is heartwarming. Watching a small bundle of oolong leaves quadruple in size to release so many unique and complex flavors is nothing short of a miracle.

And aren’t we all intoxicated by the varying levels of caffeine in our tea? The character 睡 meaning sleep or intoxication is embodied within the tea Jasmine Phoenix Pearls, its intoxicating scent and its pearls wonderful journey of unfurling mimic the beauty of the night sky. As for the other character 月 (meaning moon) there is no better tea than the Earl Grey Bella Luna this tea’s hints of coconut allow for a wonderful smoothness of flavor with delightful craters of citrus throughout. Sen-no-Rikyu acknowledgement of the beauty and power of the moon is something akin to that of what many of us feel when sitting with our cups of tea. I think Sen-no-Rikyu would ask all of us: when is a person not intoxicated by the power of tea?

List of site sources >>>


Watch the video: History of Sado Japanese Tea Ceremony with ENG Sub no Rikyu (January 2022).