This was a used bookstore find that I simply couldn’t resist given my love of tea and most things Japanese.
This is a series of essays, by academics, enthusiasts, and professionals about the Japanese tea ceremony, or chanoyu.
There is little doubt in my mind that me or you would find sitting through the actual Japanese tea ceremony to be boring and baffling. Only someone seriously trained in meditation and Buddhism would fine a certain appreciation of it. As much as a I hate to say it, for the Japanese tea ceremony, you kinda have to be Japanese.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate what the tea ceremony stands for; what it means.
The tea ceremony is about total, artful hospitality. It’s about taking a time out from your everyday, sordid life and finding peace and solitude, if only for a few minuets. It’s about doing something perfect and uncompromising in a world of compromise, rush, and mediocrity. It’s a deep appreciation of aesthetics. Lastly, each tea ceremony can only happen once; it’s a profound statement of solidarity, companionship, and the fragility of life.
Steeped in Zen Buddhism, the tea ceremony, like all Japanese pastimes can lead to satori, or Enlightenment. And that’s pretty cool. Name one American pastime that’s supposed to lead to that end. The closest we come is some vague and rambling comparison to baseball as a blue print to American democratic principals.
That being said, this book is academic in tone. It’s clumsy and incredibly niche. It’s not meant to be an introduction to the top, much less Japanese culture. If you want to know more about tea, and especially the important philosophical ramifications of the Japanese conception of tea, read The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura.