KARATSU, Saga -- A museum in this southwestern Japan city launched a program on May 2 for the general public to experience a tea ceremony in a replica of the "golden tea room" of 16th century feudal warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
The Saga Prefectural Government reconstructed the tearoom and unveiled it in March at Saga Prefectural Nagoya Castle Museum. Local residents Seiichi Noda, 77, and his wife Kumiko, 73, who had apparently applied to take part in the ceremony to mark their 46th wedding anniversary, became the first guests to taste matcha and snacks in the tearoom. Deeply moved, they described it as the "best memory" of their lives.
Gold leaf is applied to both the interior and exterior of the room, which has a floor space of three tatami mats. Based on historical evidence, a crimson woolen fabric was used for the tatami's surface, while a red silk fabric covers the sliding doors.
During the ceremony, the sliding doors are closed and lights are dimmed so that people can relive the atmosphere of Hideyoshi's era. Looking back on the experience, Kumiko said, "Seeing the faint gold color softened my heart."
The museum plans to hold the tea ceremony programs on May 8, 15, 22 and June 25 ahead of the full-scale opening of the tearoom in July or later. Participants can choose their tea bowl from three made by the 14th generation Karatsu Ware pottery artist Tarouemon Nakazato and two crafted by Hakuko Ono, who is known for the "Yurikinsai" technique using gold leaf. Museum director Junichi Ieda commented, "We hope to promote tourism through the use of cultural properties."
The participation fee for the tea ceremony, including assistance from a tea ceremony organization, is 5,000 yen (about $38) per person. Applications can be made on the Karatsu Tourism Association's website at https://airrsv.net/karatsukankou3611/calendar or by phone at 0955-74-3611 (both in Japanese).
(Japanese original by Yoshiyuki Mineshita, Karatsu Local Bureau)