Okakura Kakuzō: The Book Of Tea


Our first selection for the brand new PDX TEA Book Group is — as if it could be anything else — The Book Of Tea, by Okakura Kakuzō.

The Book Of Tea is one of my foundational texts, both as a tea person, and just as a person. It’s one of the three things that I credit with leading me towards the path I’m on today.

Oddly, I have a sort of three-degrees-off connection with Mr. Okakura. He entered Tokyo Imperial University at the age of 15, and there met a man named Ernest Fenollosa. As some of you might know, Okakura and Fenollosa were instrumental in the development of the Boston Museum of Fine Art’s Asian art division; both serving as early curators.

As others of you might know, I grew up in the Boston area. As it turns out, my great grandparents on my mother’s side actually knew Ernest Fenollosa!

(It’s silly, I know, but I also find it deeply satisfying that both Okakura and Fenollosa were Aquariuses, as I am.)

Perhaps more to the point of the actual book at hand is that, as I understand it, Okakura wrote it as an extended essay for the salon of Isabella Stewart Gardner. (He wrote it in English, so we can enjoy it in its original form.) I see the book — and perhaps he’s stated this explicitly somewhere — as part of what seems to have been a lifelong calling for him, that of trying to help people of The East and of The West understand and appreciate each other more deeply, and more truly. In the case of this book, he uses tea as his vehicle, and I can’t imagine a better one for the purpose.

It’s not a long book, but it’s a remarkably thorough one. It’s also full of love, beauty, empathy, and those things that inspire them.

I hope you’ll join us in reading it.

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NOTE: This book is out of copyright, so you can read it FREE, in digital form. It’s available from Project Gutenberg in several formats, as well as on several digital bookstores. Check your favorite one for downloads.

Here’s a link to the book’s page on Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/769

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I’m on my way to Taiwan again!

blog, travel

It’s a little hard to believe; both in the long-view, “Wow, I’m actually going to Taiwan again — already!!” sense; and in the short-view, “Wow, I’m actually not throwing up every hour anymore!!” sense.

I first went to Taiwan in May of 2013, almost exactly three years ago, with Shiuwen & Konghai, Stephanie, Ana, Jan, Masa, and Matthew. It seemed like an amazing, possibly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Then, last year, Ana (from the first trip) and @Chloé (our fellow chadō student with Margie Sensei) propositioned me with another trip idea. This time, it would be Thailand, Vietnam, and (mostly at my insistence) a few days in Taipei.

That first trip, in 2013, came on the heels of some major life upsets for me — the end of a decade-plus relationship; a cancer diagnosis, surgery, and recovery; and the decision to put PDX TEA on ice for a while, so I could get my life back together.

And the trip *did* help me get my life back together.

The second trip, in 2015, was a totally different experience, and wonderful in new, unimagined ways.

Unfortunately (but sort of fortunately, too) we ended up having to sacrifice part of our already short Taiwan time on that trip because of flight difficulties. The fortunately part was that it gave us the chance to do a whirlwind tour of Kuala Lumpur, a city I’d visit again in a heartbeat!

But now I’ve got the chance to sink my teath* into Taiwan again at a more leisurely pace.

Alas, some horrible stomach thing struck me down — almost to the hour! — two days before I was scheduled to take off from Seattle, robbing me both of my 25 Year No Barfing Streak, and of my first day of the trip. (A day Shiuwen and Jake are currently spending at beautiful Wistaria Cottage!)

But, best to get that sort of thing out of the way at home, I suppose.

And, luckily, I’m (knock on wood, fingers crossed, etc., etc.) better now, and will be in Yinnge, one of my favorite places on earth, in a few shakes of a Hello Kitty plane’s tail.

I’ll keep you posted on the trip, the renovations to PDX TEA’s new home, and other exciting tea, travel, and times.  Starting now! :D


* Sorry. :/ It’s probably behavior like that that made me get sick in the first place…