Continued from Tuesdays With Norwood: In Japan – Part 4

The principal strongman to emerge from the collapse of Ashikaga authority was a remarkably hideous peasant named, remarkably, Hideyoshi (1536-98). He was the sort of man who had his slain enemies’ ears cut off, packed in barrels, and sent back to the capital of Kyoto for burial. It was largely his doing that the Japanese were united under one functioning government for the first time. One of the most influential of Hideyoshi’s contemporaries and a close adviser was the greatest of all Japanese tea masters, Sen-no Rikyu (1521-91). During his lifetime Japan was not only in the throes of the struggle for national unification, but also was having to deal with Westerners, merchants and missionaries from Portugal and Holland, for the first time. Sen-no Rikyu took refuge from all this confusion in Zen meditation training, studying the Way of Tea, or chado, under a disciple of the great Shuko. If Shuko was the Saint Paul of chado, Rikyu was its Luther, for he became a different sort of tea prophet, spreading a doctrine of wabi, or “simple and natural,” which spilled out of his teacup into every aspect of Japanese life.

An excerpt from New Tea Lover’s Treasury, by James Norwood Pratt

To be continued in Tuesdays With Norwood: In Japan – Part 6