Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Tea In the Spotlight: The travels & travails of Kobori Enshū's Hassōan tea house

Source: http://hitoritabi-kiseki.com/blog-entry-87.html
I'm back to the blogosphere after spending the last year and a half writing my dissertation more or less full-time. I am happy to announce that I completed the first draft in February 2015 and have been revising ever since! At this point, it's coming along pretty well and I am anticipating a defense in early October. In the meantime, I wanted to allot a little energy to this blog. I uncover so many interesting stories in the course of my research, and often this information has no proper place in my dissertation, so it is nice to use this blog as an outlet to share them with others who share my interest in tea culture and history.

 On that note, Instagram has become my new social platform of choice for connecting with fellow tea aficionados and practitioners around the globe. And it was while killing time on Instagram at four this morning (too early to get up!) that I stumbled across the idea for this post when I saw a photo of a sukiya identified as Hassōan 「八窓庵」 posted by someone I follow on Instagram.

Source: http://hitoritabi-kiseki.com/blog-entry-87.html

The poster had included the following hashtags, all in Japanese: #小堀遠州 #中島公園 #茶室 #茶道 #茶の湯 (#KoboriEnshū #NakajimaPark #chashitsu #chadō #chanoyu). Here's the original post: https://instagram.com/p/2Sq76BiTtY/ 

This attracted my attention because Hassōan is one of best-known tea houses attributed to the sixteenth-century daimyo tea master Kobori Enshū, but I also recognized the name of Nakajima Park as a location in Sapporo, Hokkaido -- an area that was not yet a part of the Tokugawa empire that Enshū served, nor was it an area to which he had traveled during his lifetime as far as I was aware. So what was Hassōan doing in Hokkaido?

                                                         Kobori Enshū

Before I attempt to answer that question, let me offer a little background on Hassōan. The "eight-windowed" tearoom (hassōnoseki) was originally a concept attributed to Enshū's teacher, the daimyo tea master Furuta Oribe (古田織部 d. 1615).

The design introduced multiple windows situated opposite the host’s position, admitting natural light which would make the preparation of tea more easily observable during daylight tea gatherings.  In contrast, Taian tearoom attributed to the merchant tea master Sen Rikyū only has high windows and none are in proximity to the host's position, so the area in which the host undertakes the preparation of tea remains shrouded in semi-darkness. In contrast, three of the windows at Hassōan  are situated around the temae-za, the position from which the host prepares tea. 

This natural "spotlight" on the host was among the many things for which warrior tea practitioners were castigated, since it was perceived as placing an unseemly focus on the actions and appearance of the host. Nevertheless, the use of multiple windows at varying heights soon caught on as tea practitioners from all social classes came to appreciate the often delightful visual effects the interplay of light and shadow could affect within the tearoom. 

                                             Interior (the teahouse is generally not open to the public)
Source: http://www.uji-tea.co.jp/kobori/hassouan.html

Source: http://d.hatena.ne.jp/N-Tanabe/20110828/p1
A flurry of internet searches later, and this is what I've uncovered from various sources. During the lifetime of Enshū, the Kobori family's domain was located in Omi (Shiga prefecture). Enshū died in 1647, and the leadership of Omi continued to be passed down in the hands of his descendants. By 1788, the family had fallen into financial straits and was accused of misgovernance by the bakufu. As a result, the Kobori underwent a forcible transfer of domain. It is said that many of the more valuable heirlooms and treasures accumulated by the Kobori over several generations (tea implements surely among them) were scattered during this time in the name of liquidating clan assets.

The tea house Hassōan is said to have been moved to the grounds of a small Buddhist temple located within the precincts of the nearby Nagahama Hachiman shrine (Shiga prefecture) at this juncture.

             Nagahama Hachimangu

             Nagahama hachimangu02s3200" by 663highland - 663highland. 
       Licensed under CC 表示 2.5 via ウィキメディア・コモンズ.

 Around a century later, during the early Meiji era, it is said to have been disassembled and reconstructed at an affiliated head temple, Shanain, also in Nagahama.

            Shanain, Nagahama
Shanain01s3200" by 663highland - 663highland. 
              Licensed under CC 表示 2.5 via ウィキメディア・コモンズ.
In 1919,  Hassōan was purchased by the industrialist Mochita Kin'ya  (持田謹也), who apparently moved the teahouse to Sapporo at his personal expense (ah, it's good to be an industrialist!) Born in Chiba, Mochita had moved to Sapporo in 1896 to assume the editorial reins for the Mainichi Shimbun and owned a large estate in the area. By 1906, he was editor-in-chief for the Hokkaido Times newspaper (now the Hokkaido Shimbun), and later served on the paper's board of directors.

A former racetrack for horses, the land on which Nakajima Park is situated was donated to the city of Sapporo in 1951, and it was at that point that Hassōan was moved to its current location, deep within a grove of trees inside the park. This seems fitting insofar as Mochita himself was an avid fan and promoter of horseracing.

                                  Sapporo's horseracing (keiba) stands in the late Meiji era.
                            I believe this racetrack was in the general area of Nakajima Park.
Source: http://homepage2.nifty.com/keibastamp/sakusaku/newpage7.html

In 2006, heavy snows collapsed a portion of Hassōan's roof, but repairs were completed by 2008.

Say, does anyone have a tearoom I can purchase and move to my backyard? It will need to be a bargain, considering that I'm still operating on a Ph.D. candidate's budget...

Background information for this post was found at the following site:

  • http://www.uji-tea.co.jp/kobori/hassouan.html

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Art Markets in Asia, Past and Present

I'm back from a long hiatus dedicated to writing and teaching, and it's time to update the blog with some interesting material I've unearthed over the past months! Working on the topic of Chinese imports in the world of early modern tea practice over the past year has engendered a deep interest in the burgeoning global market for Chinese antiquities and art. This New York Times video piece does a nice job of exploring the pleasures, and the perils, of the current international interest in Chinese art. Returning to the premodern world, my work on the medieval and early modern market for karamono (literally "Chinese things") in Japan has turned up some really interesting materials that readers of this blog may find of interest. One recent publication has proved particularly enlightening:
Hakata: The Cultural World of Northern Kyushu This newly published edited volume from Brill offers a multi-faceted introduction to the northern Kyushu region of Hakata, a key early entrepôt for trade objects (and people) from China, Korea and the Ryukyu islands, many of whom took up more-or-less permanent residence in Kyushu. Two chapters were of particular interest for my research: 1)The first of these was Andrew Cobbing's "The Hakata Merchant's World: Cultural Networks in a Centre of Maritime Trade". This chapter not only explores Hakata's unique position as a trade city in a position of relative autonomy similar to that exercised later in 15th-century Sakai, but also features the activities and connections of at least one figure important to the tea world, the merchant teaman Kamiya Sotan (author of the tea diary known as Sotan nikki). The comparative reading Cobbing provides for the cases of Hakata and Sakai was fascinating and thought-provoking, and his account of how Kamiya's fortunes rose and fell with alliances he built with Japan's unifiers (particularly Hideyoshi and Ieyasu) offered me some valuable insights into what the limits of merchant-warrior tea networks looked like in practice during the late 16th century. 2) Following directly on the heels of Cobbing's chapter is Kazushige Horimoto's "Chanoyu in Hakata: Zen, Karamono and the Reception of Tea Ceremony." Horimoto offers keen insight into tea activities in the region, both prior to and after the rise of the Sen-family schools. Translated by Tim Cross (another contributor to this volume and my on-site research adviser during a stint in Japan 2011-2012), this essay appear originally in Japanese as "Chanoyu kara mita Hakata" in Tanihata Akio's Sado no rekishi (Kyoto, Tankosha, 1999). Tying the development of a localized chanoyu culture into Hakata Zen, the karamono trade, and the roles of Hakata's gōshu merchants (like Kamiya), Horimoto also traced the engagement of the local Ōtomo clan with tea and the collection of Chinese objects, as well as their role in promoting the locally-produced Ashiya tea kettles, such as this example from the Tokyo National Museum:
I recommend this book to students of premodern Japan and fellow chanoyu enthusiasts.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The "Not-listening Monkey" tea caddy [不聞猿 という茶入]

In the process recently of writing a section of my dissertation which concerns meibutsu (famed and named) tea utensils, I came across this enigmatic little piece mentioned in a Japanese journal called  銘のはなし:十二ヶ月. Mei no hanashi: jyuni ka getsu (Kyoto: Tankosha, October 1998). 

How much do I love that this tea caddy is named "not-listening monkey" (Kikazaru)! Just look at the shape and you'll see why it evokes one of the three famous monkeys at Nikko's Toshugu mausoleum. Awesome!

While on the face of it, the name is already charming, I believe there's also embedded grammatical pun here. The surface reading of the name translates as "not listening monkey" but if you consider that the "monkey" part of the name "zaru" in this reading, is a homophone for a classical mizenkei (negating) verb ending, then you realize that it's actually a double negative -- thus a positive, possible to read as both "not listening monkey" AND as "Not-not-listening" (which is actually listening). Yeah, I'm a nerd and quite possibly overthinking this double-negative business, but it's fun to contemplate these possibilities for the meaning of the name.

It is credited to Sohaku 宗伯, an Edo-era period Seto-ware potter whose dates are unclear, though apparently he was a contemporary of Nobunaga and Hideyoshi. It may have been named by him, but that is also not certain. The journal and other sources I've consulted don't provide a chain of ownership (yurai) entry, so I'm not even sure who owned it, though it's a meibutsu piece. I will continue to check other meibutsuki from the Edo era and see if I can find an entry for it. 

Here's what the Japan Knowledge Database says about Sohaku: 織豊時代の陶工。

Some tea friends in my circle think the handles mark it as a chuko-meibutsu dating to Enshu's lifetime, but the sources I've consulted all term it a meibutsu, which would date it earlier, to around the time of Rikyu. Certainly, in this case, the handles are the defining feature, as the majority of tea caddies lack them altogether.

Either way, it's a cute piece with a very apt name, don't you agree?

There certainly are some days I can relate to not wanting to hear certain things.

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Tanabata: Japan's Star Festival

Gentle Readers,

(Does anyone besides me remember how the inimitable Miss Manners addressed her readership in this manner?)

My recent dearth of posts is due to an ongoing process of dissertation chapter revisions (so much fun!) and a series of work and personal trips that took me to St. Louis (for fun and local history), to Salt Lake City (two weeks grading the AP Japanese Language exam), and to Colorado (to see family).

In the meantime, I've begun teaching an intensively-paced, four-week course on Japanese history at the University of Kansas Edwards campus, which is located not at our usual main campus in Lawrence, but in the affluent Kansas city suburb of Overland Park. It's a great group this year, and a delightfully modest class size of 22 hardy souls, the smallest class I've taught in ... well, in recent memory.

Sunday was Tanabata, the Japanese star festival, so in the spirit of experiential learning, the students and I bedecked a tree branch (harvested from my front yard) with tanzaku bearing our wishes. Students' negai-goto (expressed aspirations) included more rain for a growing garden, finishing a marathon injury-free, and my favorite, a paper slip which simply stated "Graduate!" (I have several soon-to-graduate seniors in the class for whom this course will be their final higher ed huzzah).

Here's a photo of our branch laid at the feet of the KU Edwards campus "Academic Jayhawk" (who knew?)

Here at home, Gary and I also hung out our own Tanabata tanzaku.

I'm not much of a believer in astrology, but I figure that a humble plea to celestial bodies never hurts. 

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Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Toyobo teahouse at Kenninji, a Rinzai Zen temple in Kyoto

The Toyo-bo (東陽坊) teahouse is located at Kenninji (建仁寺), a Rinzai Zen temple in Kyoto founded by the monk Eisai in the year 1202. Eisai is the individual traditionally credited with the introduction of tea culture to Japan. His tomb is located elsewhere on the temple grounds. 


Legend holds that the Toyo-bo teahouse was built in 1587 to designs by tea master Sen no Rikyu for on behalf of the hegemon Toyotomi Hideyoshi. This tea house was used at the Grand Kitano Tea Gathering (Kitano O-chanoyu 北野大茶の湯) during the tenth month of that same year and ostensibly moved to this location afterward. 

The tearoom is a nijo-daime style room (two mats and a smaller mat for the host)

Toyobo is named for one of Rikyu's disciples, Toyobo Chousei (東陽坊長盛 1515-1598), the figure whose tastes this tea room is said to express. 

Typical of the period, it features a sword-rack (katana-kake 刀掛け)at the nijiri-guchi entrance. 

The roji garden is small but nicely organized. 

Kenninji's other claims to fame are its moss-and-stone courtyard garden called the Chōon-tei (潮音庭) ....

... and this stunning contemporary ceiling painting of twin dragons by Koizumi Junsaku (1924), completed in 2002 to mark the 800th anniversary of the temple's founding.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The strange fate of the Hiragumo kettle

One of the more dramatic episodes in chanoyu lore concerns the case of sengoku-era daimyo Matsunaga Hisahide (松永 久秀1510?-1577). Hisahide served as a retainer to the Miyoshi clan from the 1540s until the mid 1560s, when he had consolidated his own power sufficiently to become a regional ruler in his own right. In 1568, national unifier Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) attacked Hisahide, who was compelled to surrender to the hegemon even though he retained control of his own home domain near the present-day city of Nara.

In 1577, he split with Nobunaga, resulting in the latter man's siege against Hisahide's stronghold in Shigisan castle. Realizing that defeat was imminent, Hisahide resolved that Nobunaga would not have the satisfaction of claiming any of Hisahide's famous tea utensils as a part of the spoils. Nobunaga had for some time been engaged in his so-called "utensil hunt" (meibutsu-gari), obtaining prized tea objects from defeated foes and cowed allies alike, so Hisahide's fears were probably well-founded.

Among the many famous utensils (meibutsu) in Hisahide's possession was an iron tea kettle called "Hiragumo" or "Flat Spider"[平蜘蛛] so named for the flat spider design on the kettle's surface, an embellishment that was said to appear to crawl when the kettle was full of boiling water. The shape would have been something like this.

In a fit of rage, Hisahide is said to have ascended the castle tower with this coveted item and thrown it from the ramparts, smashing the priceless piece beyond all hope of repair, and then sealing his fate through self-immolation. This moment has captured the imaginations of both early modern woodblock print artists such as Utagawa Kuniyoshi (see above,1797-1862), as well as contemporary manga artists who are producing comic-book versions of the lives of famous premodern tea figures.

Depiction of the fate of Matsunaga and Hiragumo from Nishizaki Taisei and Kudo Kazuya 's Rikyu Shichitetsu series, in which the kettle is strapped to an overwrought Hisahide's chest (below right).

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A daimyo reveals the artist within

     Cognizant of the cultural capital that accrued from such endeavors, many of Japan's warrior-rulers engaged in artistic activities. It has been noted that chanoyu (tea practice) appealed to elite warriors for this practical reason, among others that may have been more personally motivated. And while tea men from every social class traditionally carved bamboo teascoops both for their own use and, occasionally, to present as gifts to others, it's still quite unusual to see high-ranking warriors turn their hands to more arduous crafts. 

    That is what makes this exquisite lacquerware picnic set so special, since it was created by the powerful daimyo and well-known tea man Hosokawa Sansai (1563-1645). The eggplant motif for the sake flask is a auspicious one, as the Japanese word for eggplant, nasu, makes a phonetic allusion to a homophone verb which means "to succeed". I had the pleasure of examining this piece up close in 2009 at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum's "Lords of the Samurai" exhibit. The sake flask is accompanied by a food container (at bottom) and an ingenious sake cup made from the eggplant's "leaf".  Its execution shows that Sansai was not a casual artist. Lacquerwork is a painstaking process, requiring time-consuming processes of applying, curing, polishing, and reapplying the lacquer -- itself a very tricky medium. It's not clear to me if this piece would have ever made an appearance in a tearoom -- it's more suited to elegant outings in the countryside -- but it offers mute testament to how important artistic endeavor was to leading Tokugawa statesmen. 

A larger view of the photo can be seen at this link
An interesting article on auspicious motifs in Japanese textiles may also interest some readers.