Japanese tea room has been described as a spiritual practice, a performance art, as how to hold a social gathering, and as simply making a fire, boiling water, whisking green tea, and serving it to one’s guests. Its essence is heart to heart meeting through full awareness of transiency; its form is the making, giving, and receiving of tea and a bite to eat. In it, tea ceremonies steeped in tradition and history are performed; dictated by precise rules and procedures that have been shaped by religion and other influences both domestic and foreign. Given the complexity and meticulous nature of it's practice, study of the tea ceremony is a true intellectual pursuit that has enormous cultural and social significance. The Book of Tea, by Kakuzo Okakura ,explains the tea room history and purpose. Throughout the chapter, Okakura explains how much non-Japanese influences impacted the tea room, how tea room shaped Japanese identity, and how important the tea room is to the Japanese culture.
When Okakura explains the art part of the tea room, he strongly stresses how important it is to have a self mind. For example, Okakura explains how having repetitive object or decoration is bad in a tea house by comparing it to a Westerner. Okakura says, “in Western houses we are often confronted with what appears to us useless reiteration. We find it trying to talk to a man while his full-length portrait stares at us from behind his back. We wonder which is real, he of the picture or he who talks, and feel a curious conviction that one of them must be fraud” (Okakura). From this quote, it sounds like Okakura really does not like Western style homes because it goes against having a self mind. Okakura also cannot accept the Western interior for the museums. Okakura says, “Western interior permanently filled with a vast array of pictures, statuary, and bric-a-brac gives the impression of mere vulgar display of riches”(Okakura). Okakura sort of rants on the west here to explain how having an enormous quantity of work distracts the people from fully appreciating the art. The author is less strict when he mentioned Zen because the tea room was created for the purpose of meditation and peace. Okakura says, “The simplicity and purity of the tea-room resulted from emulation of the Zen monastery” (Okakura). The tea room was mostly influenced by Zen because the tea ritual was taken that of the Zen monks drinking tea before the image of Bodhidharma. The passage assures that Zen is Japanese when it was created in China. I believe Okakura does not really stress the different origin of the religion other than stating the fact that there is an image of Bodhidharma where monks drank their tea. So far from reading this document, I feel like Okakura does not like the Western influences because it pushed away the theme of thinking by themselves, which impacts things, like decoration, art, and architecture.
The tea room was created to bring peace and prosperity. It was a place free from vulgarity with a calm atmosphere. Okakura said, “before a great work of art there was no distinction between daimyo, samurai, and commoner. Nowadays industrialism is making true refinement more and more difficult all the world over”(Okakura). The tea room afforded a welcome atmosphere whether the person was a samurai, daimyo, or a commoner. It was a place to have a free communion of artistic spirits. However, with the industrialism separating the class wider and wider, it is harder to have that equal conversation. In the sixteenth century, “the tea-room afforded a welcome respite from labour to the fierce warriors and statesmen engaged in the unification and reconstruction of Japan. In the seventeenth century, after the strict formalism of the Tokugawa rule had been developed, it offered the only opportunity possible for the free communion of artistic spirits”(Okakura). The tea room helped create opportunity for people of different class to come