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Warlord Hideyoshi's 'golden tea room' restored at southwest Japan museum

The "golden tea room," which has been restored using red woolen fabric on the surface of tatami mats and silk fabric instead of shoji paper based on historical materials, is seen in the city of Karatsu, Saga Prefecture, on March 23, 2021. It is set up on a stage made of natural Hiba wood. (Mainichi/Yoshiyuki Mineshita)

KARATSU, Saga -- The Saga Prefectural Government on March 23 unveiled the "golden tea room" of warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, which was restored at the Saga Prefectural Nagoya Castle Museum in this southwestern Japan city, for the first time to the media.

    The tea room is a temporary type that does not use nails. The breakroom in the museum's permanent exhibition hall was remodeled and painted black to let the golden tea room shine. People can actually go inside and experience the "gorgeous culture of the Momoyama period." The tea room will be revealed to the public for free from March 27, and paid reservation-based tea ceremonies will start from the new fiscal year in April.

    During Hideyoshi's invasions of Korea (1592-1598), more than 150 daimyo and military commanders gathered at Nagoya Castle in the current city of Karatsu, which became the base for going to the Korean peninsula, and set up camps in the surrounding area. According to the museum, the golden tea room, which was first used in Kyoto in 1586, was taken to Nagoya Castle and used four times including when a tea ceremony was held with the daimyo.

    Saga Prefecture has designated the museum and the castle ruins as "a base for cultural tourism that offers the experience of actual history," and with a production cost of about 36 million yen (roughly $300,000), it restored the tea room -- measuring approximately 3 meters in width, 3 meters in depth and 2 meters in height -- based on historical references.

    Three tatami mats made of crimson woolen fabric are laid at the front, and some 16,500 pieces of gold leaves, each measuring 109 millimeters on all sides, are used for the interior and exterior, including the ceiling and sliding doors, as well as for tea equipment.

    Unlike the restored golden tea rooms at MOA Museum of Art in the Shizuoka Prefecture city of Atami and the Osaka Castle Tower, the one in Karatsu "is the only place in Japan where you can drink matcha tea in it," according to curator Hiroshi Yasunaga. He added, "We'd like you to immerse yourself in the space and relive the experiences of people who drank tea within in at the time, such as Hideyoshi."

    On the first day the tea room is made open to the public, Saga Prefecture will hold a grand tea ceremony centered around the castle ruins. Organizers will choose three pairs of visitors at the venue before 1 p.m. Each pair will be invited to enjoy matcha at the golden tea room from 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., respectively.

    (Japanese original by Yoshiyuki Mineshita, Karatsu Local Bureau)

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