Tea Book Reviews

K. Surak ‘Making Tea, Making Japan: Cultural Nationalism in Practice’ – Tea Book Review

Making tea, making Japan

Chado – a uniquely Japanese tea ritual with both aesthetic and spiritual qualities, has attracted lots of attention all around the world with a number of books reviewing its philosophy, history and practice. ‘Making Tea, Making Japan’ by Kristin Surak, a university lecturer with vast experience in chado, presents chado as a tool of nation building and creating Japaneseness.

The book starts with the theoretical background and introduction of the nation-work concept, through which chado is analysed and explored in the rest of the book. Following that is an overview of chado practice; the space it is held in and the utensils used for it. Then we are taken back through history and shown how the perception and use of chado has changed and evolved from its early days to the present day. Perhaps the most unique and insightful part of this book is the following chapter on the structure and organisation, uncovering deeply cultural and highly economical sides of chado practice. What follows next is an observation of chado practitioners and their perceptions of chado. Finally, we are guided through some more examples of nation building in other countries, that somewhat resemble chado, but cannot boast the same level of success.

Written by an academic, the book has a very clear structure and analytical writing style. It looks at various aspects of chado, presenting them one after another in a logical easy-to-follow order. In addition to lots of details about the chado and its practitioners, it shares unique insights and interpretation of chado history and its organisations. Maybe too detailed and analytical for a tea beginner, the book helps to see a bigger picture for those already familiar with Japan and chado practice.

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