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.


  1. I've just found your blog because of your note on Wakeiseijaku :)

    I'm an anthropologist who studies tea-- contemporary elite practitioners, and their toriawase. I'm obviously interested in how they network... and suspect you must have a nice understanding of how tea peeps networked in your research period :) I'll keep an eye on things here, hoping to learn lots :) :) :) よろしくお願いします。

  2. Thanks for your comment -- always great to meet someone who shares this interest.
    I suspect I could learn a lot from you as well! The next chapter of my dissertation deals with early modern artistic networks, I will be at work on that issue over the summer months.

    Are you familiar with the work of social anthropologist Eiko Ikegami on early modern aesthetic networks?