We’re going back into the archives to revisit these classic posts by James Norwood Pratt. This sequence “In Japan” is a series of excerpts from his book New Tea Lover’s Treasury. We have added a link to the end of each one to take you to the next if you would like to read them as a sequence, or you can choose which you want to peruse below. Enjoy!

To a European the tea ceremony is lengthy and meaningless. When witnessed more than once, it becomes intolerably monotonous. Not being born with an Oriental fund of patience, he longs for something new, something lively, something with at least the semblance of logic and utility. But then it is not for him that the tea ceremonies were made. If they amuse those for whom they were made, they amuse them, and there is nothing more to be said. In any case, tea ceremonies are perfectly harmless…. Some may deem them pointless. None can stigmatize them as vulgar.

Basil Hall Chamberlain (1849-1912), Japanese Things

Part One

It would take as much diligence and time to unravel the history of tea in Japan as to write the rest of this book. Tea had long been the favorite beverage among… (Read more)

Part Two

As nearly as I can judge, the Japanese tea ceremonies have undergone at least three distinct stages in the seven hundred or so years of their existence. The first was… (Read more)

Part Three

A tea tournament was rather like a wine tasting and not, one supposes, without the attendant foolishness. The point of this jeu de societe was… (Read more)

Part Four

Having long since eclipsed the emperor, the shoguns of this so-called Muromachi period (1338-1568) were drawn, one and all, from the Ashikaga clan. Under their stewardship, things went from… (Read more)

Part Five

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… (Read more)

Part Six

Hideyoshi loved tea and he practiced chado after his own fashion. He sponsored probably the greatest tea party of all time, the invitation being… (Read more)

Part Seven

One historian avers Rikyu’s fall came about because he was “not indifferent to money” and abused his unrivaled skill as a connoisseur of tea wares to enrich himself and curry favor with the great. Others think it was… (Read more)

Part Eight

The most eloquent explanation I’ve read of tea’s importance in life is to be found in The Book of Tea written in 1906 by Kakuzo Okakura, who was born a decade after Commodore Perry’s mission to Japan and was… (Read more)

Photo “101B3361” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License to the photographer Morgan Hartt and was altered by being cropped down to only the pile of books (source)