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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