The Book of Tea – a classic of tea literature

okakura kakuzo

The book of tea is a classic of tea literature. It was written by the Japanese Okakura Kakuzo. As usual in Japan, the surname is assumed, the first name follows. In his homeland he is better  known as "Tenshin".

okakura kakuzo

Early contact with the Western culture

Okakura was born in 1862 in Yokohama in a wealthy family home († 1913). At the age of seven, he learned English at an American missionary school, which was very unusual in Japan at the time.

Later he studied Western culture and philosophy, politics and economics in Tokyo. He also received training in "Chadō", the Japanese tea preparation.

He then met Ernest F. Fennolosa, an American professor who taught philosophy in Japan. After Fennolosa, he became a follower of classical Japanese art (later also an art scholar), translated numerous research works for him, and worked as an interpreter for him.

He also travelled to the USA and Europe, later he also travelled to China and India.

Okakura got a good insight into western culture.

The book of tea, which he wrote in English, was first published in New York and London in 1906. It was not translated into Japanese until 1927, and one can see that Okakuro wrote this book primarily for the Western world.

It is not one of the many tea books dealing primarily with tea varieties and growing areas. Rather it is an attempt to bring Japanese culture and "Japanese Zen" closer to the West. Because tea plays a central role here, he builds up descriptions and explanations around what he calls "teaism".

A quote from the book:

" You may laugh at us for having “too much tea”, but may we not suspect that you of the West have “no tea” at all in your
constitution?

 


The Book of Tea on an Android Tablet

English language editions are available free of charge on the Internet:

Project Gutenberg offers various formats, including HTML, which can be displayed by any browser. There are also  versions for Kindle Reader and EPUB Reader.

The Book of Tea on Project Gutenberg

Finally, a link to the museum that was opened in 1997 in honour of Okakura:

Tenshin Memorial Museum Of Art

On this page you can learn more about the life and work of Tenshin.

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