Recently I watched the taiga drama, “Nobunaga: King of Zipangu”. It tells the story, obviously, of ODA Nobunaga, the first of three great men who unified Japan. Nobunaga is of course an extremly fascinating character but what makes the drama especially interesting is it is told from the point of view of the Portuguese Jesuit, Luis FROIS.


That there is Oda Nobunaga looking very gangster in his Nanban hat. His retainer told him he looks like Bishimon, protector god of Buddhist law, in that hat, upon which Nobunaga swore–like Bishimon–to protect Japan. Pretty awesome.

Although actually my favorite character is Lawerence (Lorenzo). Soft-spoken with an iron resolve. (#^.^#) You can see to the left in the above picture.

That said, the days of Oda Nobunaga were also the beginning of tea ceremony as we know it. For example, when the daimyo MATSUNAGA Hisahide submitted to Nobunaga, he presented him the Tsukumogami chaire, saying that next to his life it was the thing he valued most.

Matsunaga, presenting the tsukumogami chaire to Nobunaga

Matsunaga, presenting the tsukumogami chaire to Nobunaga

Nobunaga, country warlord that he is, was rather mystified why a drab tiny jar should be valued so much. But his wife’s friend, a merchant of Sakai named IMAI Soukyuu (if you study tea, that name should be familiar) immediately recognized the chaire. Nobunaga personally seemed impressed that the tiny chaire was, literally, worth an entire country.

The Tsukumogami Chaire

The Tsukumogami Chaire

By the way, the name “tsukumogami” comes from a story in the Ise Monogatari.

Once upon a time, there was a old woman whose hair was already white as snow. But just once in her life, she wanted to be with a charming man. She related this desire to her sons, but the older two merely looked at her like she was crazy. But her youngest son took her desire to heart and set out to search for a charming man. One day, he came across ARIWARA no Narihira, who is indeed very charming, if you have ever read his poetry. The youngest son tried to convince Narihira to meet his mother, but Narihira declined. However, the mother wanted to meet him so badly that she went to Narihira’s house and peeked at him through the gate. Narihira noticed this, so recited this poem:

ももとせに ひととせ足らぬ つくも髪 我を恋ふらし おもかげに見ゆ
The woman with white hair of 99 years (tsukumogami)
Just short of 100
It seems she yearns for me

The old woman felt embarrassed, and fled back home, tearing her clothing on a tree branch in the process. That night, Narihira went to the old woman’s house, but found her sleeping. He was surprised to find her sleeping, clearly she didn’t expect him to come. After reciting another poem, he wakes her and so in the end, her dream could come true.

By the way, the term “tsukumogami”, while literally meaning 99 year old hair, has come to refer to items which upon reaching 100 years of age, become animate. They are now often featured in yokai (ghost) stories.

NEXT!! More about Soukyuu and his friends.

Narihira having fun on the banks of the Fuji

Narihira having fun on the banks of the Fuji. Actually, I think he is just carry the lady Tsubone across the river, so she doesn’t have to get her clothes wet.


YazaemonKanto4Yazaemon Kanto
Yazaemon’s Plaid

Pattern: Stripes
Weave: Kantou

One of the famed fabrics (meibutsu). It has been passed down that MICHIDA Yazaemon brought it back from Song China, but its origin is not clear. This kanto was used for the shifuku of the Great Meibutsu “Hino Katatsuke Chaire” and of the Revived Meibutsu “Tama Tsushima Chaire”.


文様: 縞
織: 間道




The above are variations of Yazaemon Kanto. ヽ(*⌒∇⌒*)ノ

I had the fortune to go to Nagoya this month, and while the trip was unrelated to tea, I did get to visit several public tearooms. The first was a modern-style tea room in Ni-no-maru Garden outside Nagoya Castle. It was built rather recently in 1969 and contains a formal 10 mat tea room, an unusual tsukubai, and a stone floored space with tables and chairs for those disinclined to seiza. This is a photograph taken from behind the ro.
Ninomaru Teahouse

In the tokonoma hung a scroll reading 「一期一会」or “Ichigo Ichie”, along with flowers taken from the garden. Notice how the scroll is written from right to left.

One reason given for the prohibition against stepping/sitting upon the tatami’s edge is that in days past the family’s crest would be woven in it, and stepping on the family crest would of course be rude. The edge of the tokonoma’s tatami here has kiri (pawlownia) woven into it, the crest of the House of Tokugawa, who governed this province.

Visiting the tearoom, you will be served tea and a sweet. I neglected to ask about the name of the sweet. (^_^;)

Here is a photograph of the ro taken from the kamiza. The window covered the the screen peers into the mizuya, where they made me my tea.
Ninomaru Teahouse

In the stone floored room, there was a replica of the golden tea kettle used the lord TOKUGAWA Yoshinao (I think).

And this is the Chausu (tea mill) used by the tea house from the time it was opened until 2007.

Ni-no-maru Garden was truly pleasant to walk though in the early morning, under scattering cherry blossoms and in shadow of Nagoya castle. If you happen to visit Nagoya, I pray you visit it.
Ninomaru Garden

DSCN4287Mei: Pine Dew (松露)
Sei: Nakamori Seika of Shiga Prefecture (中森製菓)
Type: Wagashi

These beads of adzuki and ingen koshi-an mixed with kanbaiko–a sort of pre-steamed rice flour–are then coated in a white sugary coat. They are of course quite sweet, but have an interesting, almost sharp undertaste.

The package tells us that this sweet is modeled after the round white “pine dew” plants (Rhizopogon Rubescen) that grow in the seaside pine groves at the start of summer.

Here is Yae helping wounded soldiers during the Sino-Japanese War.

Here is Yae helping wounded soldier on during the Sino-Japanese War.

The Tea of Neesima Yae and Urasenke (Pt. 3)
As a Volunteer Nurse

On January 23rd, the 23rd year of Meiji, NEESIMA Jou, who had been running himself ragged establishing Doushisha University, died far away in Oh’iso. He was 47 years old. The cause was acute peritonitis, but on top of that illness was layered the stress of his work. (Cf. YOSHIMI ditto) Having spent 14 years together–good and bad–weathering the adverse social conditions towards Christianity, Yae was deeply grieved. She preserved a lamentative memorial book of “my most beloved friend” called “Notes on the illness on my beloved deceased husband Jou”. But even through this loss, Yae picked herself and without complaining renewed her efforts to pave the way for Doushisha’s operation.

One thing she did in April of the same year is become a member of the Japanese Red Cross Society, and work hard on the front lines as a volunteer nurse during the Sino-Japanese War. When the Russo-Japanese War broke out, again, she worked there. For her meritous service, she was awarded the Order of the Sacred Crown Seventh Class in Meiji 29 and then the Order of the Sacred Crown Sixth Class in Meiji 39, and she received numerous honours from the Japanese Red Cross. The Order of the Sacred Crown was established in Meiji 21 and until recently was an honour reserved for women. At the time of its creation, it had six classes and was awarded to members of the imperial family, but in Meiji 29 it was changed to eight classes and that is era when Yae was conferred the honour.

In the 19th year of Meiji, Doshisha with NEESIMA Jou as its first principle, founded the Doshisha Hospital along with the Kyoto Nurse’s College, very soon ushering in modern nursing education. The Japanese Red Cross Nurse’s Education School, which was the predecessor to the Charity Hospital started at the Kumamoto Western School, wasn’t begun until four years after this, in the 23rd year of Meiji. Yae’s aspiration as a volunteers nurse was likely to carry on through the Red Cross NEESIMA Jou’s dying wish to make the future a brighter place.


Sanzaru Futaoki

An event called Koushin-Machi or Koushin-Kou–when on the day of koushin ([also pronounced] kanoe saru), the three insects called joushi, chuushi, and geshi that live in the body are said to report to Heaven one’s crimes–became popular. It is believed one can preserve one’s long life span by gathering together on the day of koushin and worshiping Shoumen Kongou by reading scriptures, chatting, and eating until daybreak.

Gengensai Favoured Sanzaru Futaoki, Made by Keiju
Gengensai stated this preference in the first year of Man’en (1860), which was the year of Koushin. It is a lid rest modeled after the three “see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil” monkeys. The three monkeys are messengers of the principle deity of Koushin-machi, Shoumen Kongou.

Nota Bene: Koushin is just a date, using the sexagenary cycle that was common back in day. It was used for both years and days. The kou (kanoe) is the heavenly stem associated with yang metal, and the shin (saru) is the earthly stem associated with the zodiacal monkey and late afternoon.


玄々斎好 三猿蓋置 慶入作

Today is Culture Day, so I went to Culture Centre for the exhibition they have every year. It was pretty fun since everybody knows everybody in the “culture scene” so to speak so I ran into acquaintances every three meters. Besides two days of performances of everything from choir to shakuhachi to sword dances to hula, there are also displays of art, calligraphy, ikebana, kimono, waka poetry, and more. Especially fun is the public tea seating, this year put on by the Urasenke style Nishikawa Shachu. My town is not big, but not small, so we have several groups of tea practitioners. Mrs. Nishikawa, besides teaching tea, also teaches ikebana and kimono, and her son is the priest of my town’s shrine. His daughter is one of my students at school and, in addition to being a charm young girl, is quite good at English for her age. So they are a pretty amazing family. Anyway, I took some pictures of the tea seating that I will share with you, as well as translated a bit about Culture Day and it’s historical significance.

Today is the holiday called “Culture Day”, but this day (November 3rd), until it was renamed Culture Day in Showa 23, was a holiday called “Meiji Setsu”. November 3rd is the birthday of the Meiji Emperor so it was a holiday to celebrate the wise virtue of the great Emperor Meiji who oversaw the building of the foundation of modern Japan.

Meiji Setsu was established as a holiday in Showa 2 in response to the removal of “Emperor Meiji Day” (“The Late Emperor’s Day”) upon the death of the Taisho Emperor. Along with New Year’s Day, Foundation Day, and Emperor’s Birthday, it was considered one of the Four Great Holidays. Schools and organizations across all over the country celebrated with ceremonies the wise virtue of the Meiji Emperor.

Even today, large shrines, especially shrines with a deep connection to the imperial household, and organizations with traditions extending back before the war celebrate this day as “Meiji Setsu” rather than as “Culture Day”, and as a shrine there is the festival of “Meiji Setsu” to enact. As an aside, the festival regulations established by the Association of Shinto Shrines have designated Meiji Day along with New Year’s Day, Origin Day, Foundation Day, Emperor’s Birthday etc. as a mid-ranked festival.

On the other hand, “Culture Day”, which was freshly established after the war, was a memorial day with aim of “promoting culture and the love of freedom and peace”, according to the Law Relating to People’s Holidays. Because the current Japanese Constitution stresses freedom and culture, the day the Constitution was promulgated–November 3rd–was decided on to memorialize it. (By the way, Constitution Day on May 3rd is not the day the constitution was promulgated, but the day it was enacted.) So officially Culture Day is a holiday without any connection to Meiji Setsu and the fact that Culture Day is the same day as Meiji Setsu (Nov. 3rd) is pure coincidence. But actually, it is said that the day of the promulgation of the Constitution was made to match the day of Meiji Setsu.

The Mizusashi

The Futaoki

The Kettle

The Natsume and Chashaku

The Smoking Box

I thought the chrysanthemum at the bottom of my bowl was a lovely touch, being both a seasonal flower and the imperial seal.