Kitano Grand Tea Ceremony (北野大茶湯)

The Kitano Grand Tea Ceremony on November 1, 1587 organized by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI on the grounds of Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is a large scale tea ceremony.

Hideyoshi who had completed the subjugation of Kyushu in July of that year, aimed to hold the event coinciding with the construction of his mansion "Jurakudai" to display his own power to the imperial court and the general masses. From the end of the same month, various Daimyo (feudal lords), nobles and figures in the tea-ceremony circles in Kyoto, Osaka and Sakai were informed that tea ceremonies would be held in early October. Following this, the following edict was posted on July 28 (on the lunar calendar) around Kyoto and at other places.

In the woods of Kitano for 10 days from October 1, large-scale tea ceremonies were held where Hideyoshi's own tea ceremony treasures (tea ceremony related accessories) were on open show for the people who have strong attachment to tea ceremony culture (infatuation with tea ceremony accessories).

Devotees to the culture of tea ceremony participated irrespective of whether they were foot soldiers, merchants or peasants. All used a kettle, bucket and drinking vessel; those with no tea utensils were permitted to substitute other items they brought along.

Seating areas for the tea ceremony were made up of spaces where 2 tatami mats were placed in a pine grove in the Kitano forest and clothing, footwear and order of precedence had absolutely no bearing on events.

In Japan it went without saying that those with refined sensibilities came from China.

In consideration of those attending from distant parts, the events were held until the 10th.

In spite of such consideration, those who could not participate were unable to attend future tea ceremonies.

Hideyoshi prepared tea right in front of those with an understanding of the tea ceremony, regardless of whence they had come or their birth place.

Also, Hideyoshi went as far as to send a note encouraging the participation of Soutan KAMIYA, a wealthy merchant in Hakata. Geni MAEDA and Yorihisa MIYAGI handled practical matters and, attended to the construction of the event site from September.

On October 1, the first day of the tea ceremony events, the front hall (12 tatami mats in area) of the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine was divided into 3 areas, and into the middle space a gold tearoom was set in place and, within this space itself, Hideyoshi's own treasured tea ceremony utensils (such as the "Eggplant Resembling" porcelain) were displayed. Whether or not as a result of the edicts posted around town, on the day a mass of participants in the event came not only from Kyoto but from Osaka, Sakai, and, Nara: total numbers reaching 1000.

In 4 areas set aside for tea ceremonies, Hideyoshi and 3 preeminent contemporary masters of the tea ceremony (Sen no Rikyu, Sogyu TSUDA and Sokyu IMAI) were in attendance. Irrespective of the rank of people attending the event, a lottery method was used to impartially select between 3 to 5 individuals to invite to participate in tea ceremonies where priceless tea ceremony utensils were used. In the mornings, Hideyoshi spent the morning conducting tea ceremonies as leader of the ceremony and in the afternoons he satisfied himself by observing events in the various ceremony spaces.

However, 2 days later, things were completely changed and tea ceremonies halted. Subsequently as well, holding of ceremonies was not recommenced and the event was closed. It was rumored at the time (and is the common view to this day) that this was because on the evening of the first day news arrived of an uprising having broken out in Higo Province which is thought to have displeased Hideyoshi. However, besides this, there is a view that: Hideyoshi had satisfied his craving for the limelight in one day and, other views that: the event was a typical whim of an autocrat. Either way the truth is not clear.

[Original Japanese]