Tea Book Reviews

Shigenori Chikamatsu ‘Stories from a Tearoom Window’ – Tea Book Review

Stories from a tearoom window

Tea ceremony with its long-lasting history nowadays is often romanticized with many wishing they could travel in time to experience it when it was developing a few centuries ago. ‘Stories from a tea room window’ written by Shigenoti Chikamatsu and first published in1804 gives a secret look of what tea ceremony was like back in the day.

The book is written as a collection of short stories, that Shigenori, a retainer to a local lord, had compiled over his life. While there is no connecting story line, the book covers many different aspects of tea ceremony: such as the formation and meaning of the tea spaces, the use of the tea utensils and their meaning, improvements in the ceremony, tea personalities and historic events. Reporting from back then also gives a unique insight in what the society and chado may have been like in those days. For example, when reading ‘Stories from a Tearoom Window’, we can see that tea was mostly practiced by the warrior class, for whom, even in times of peace, military arts came in before tea ceremony. We can also notice, that tea utensils were already highly valued then, and the question of their possession after defeat in a war came to be so important that it had to be settled before the death of the defeated. Finally, even with many unfamiliar characters (a.k.a. historic personalities) we get to observe the evolution of tea ceremony and get to see how slowly improvements were made and changes accepted in the ritual of tea for it to become what we know of it today.

To sum up, short and unrelated stories as well as unfamiliar characters do not cloud the excitement of gaining new insights into chado: what it was like centuries ago and how it came to be what we know of it today.

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