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Grand Kitano Tea Ceremony

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A reproduction, at the Kyoto City Archaeological Museum, of some of the gold-covered tea implements that would have gone along with Hideyoshi's gold-covered tearoom
  • Date: 1587/10/1
  • Japanese: 北野大茶の湯の会 (Kitano oo-chanoyu no kai)

The Grand Kitano Tea Ceremony was a mass tea ceremony held by Toyotomi Hideyoshi at Kitano Tenmangû (Kitano Tenjin Shrine) in Kyoto. It was attended by over 1000 people, and tea was served not only by the tea masters Sen no Rikyû, Tsuda Sôgyû, and Imai Sôkyû, but also by Hideyoshi himself.

Hideyoshi had recently moved into the Jurakudai palace, which was famously fitted with a tearoom covered, walls and ceiling in gold. A great lover of the arts, and lover of showing off his love of the arts, Hideyoshi arranged this massive event as an opportunity for him to show off his collection of tea wares. Anyone and everyone, regardless of rank, was nominally invited, and in fact, tea masters were practically mandated to attend; Hideyoshi declared that anyone who failed to attend would be forbidden from then on to serve tea, and even that anyone associating with such a blacklisted tea master would become blacklisted as well.[1]

It was originally announced that the event would last ten days. As the focus was meant to be on Hideyoshi's collection of teawares, guests were restricted to bringing one tea kettle, one bucket, one teabowl.

Hundreds of temporary tea huts were erected at Kitano, and lots were drawn to see who would earn the distinction of being served tea by Hideyoshi himself; the remaining attendees were served by the aforementioned tea masters. Hideyoshi is said to have served at least 803 people himself, after which he retired to the Jurakudai and called a premature end to the event after only one day.

Scholars have suggested several theories as to Hideyoshi's decision to retire and call off the party. Some have suggested that he was upset, or disappointed, at the relative lack of attention paid to his collection, and therefore to a relative lack of admiration or prestige earned him by the event; perhaps the wabi-sabi aesthetic of the tea masters' items outshone his own, so to speak. Other scholars suggest that he was simply physically and mentally drained from serving so much tea.

This was Hideyoshi's last effort to host a large, spectacular display of his tea wares; his tea gatherings from that time onward were smaller and more intimate affairs.[2]

References

  • Elison, George. "Hideyoshi, the Bountiful Minister." in Elison, George and Bardwell L. Smith (eds.) Warlords, Artists, and Commoners: Japan in the Sixteenth Century. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1981. pp239-241.
  1. Morgan Pitelka, Spectacular Accumulation, University of Hawaii Press (2016), 42.
  2. Morgan Pitelka, Spectacular Accumulation, University of Hawaii Press (2016), 61.
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