February 14, 2006

岡倉天心の「茶の本」:The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura

Asked about a must read for anyone interested in learning Japanese culture and philosophy, my friend told me there are two bibles; one is "Bushido: The Soul of Japan" by Inazo Nitobe (1900: Full Texts) and another is "The Book of Tea" by Kakuzo Okakura (1906: Full texts). Both were written in English a century ago, when Japan still remained little known to the rest of the world.

Nitobe studies abroad for 6 years and lived in the States with his American wife after the retirement and published this. Okakura had no experience of studying abroad, and yet, his words are utterly simple and true to their meanings. My favorite quote is this;

In the trembling grey of a spring dawn, when the birds were whispering in mysterious cadence among the trees, have you not felt that they were talking to their mates about the flowers?
Surely with mankind the appreciation of flowers must have been coeval with the poetry of love. Where better than in a flower, sweet in its unconsciousness, fragrant because of its silence, can we image the unfolding of a virgin soul?

The primeval man in offering the first garland to his maiden thereby transcended the brute. He became human in thus rising above the crude necessities of nature.
He entered the realm of art when he perceived the subtle use of the useless.

- Chapter-VI. Flowers







On Feb. 10 1904, when Japan launched the war against Russia, Okakura was in NY, walking down the street wearing a traditional Japanese clothing, Hakama. Asked by a few youngsters like "Which nese are you? Japanese or Chinese?," Okakura quickly responded "Which kee are you? Yank*e, Monkey or Donkey?" and walked away. What a guy... I wish I had the guts to try the same in downtown San Francisco...

因みにこの岡倉。1904年2月10日の日露開 戦当日は袴と雪駄履きというコテコテのいでたちで門下生を引き連れNYの町を歩いていた。道で若者に” Which nese are you? Japanese or Chinese? ”と聞かれると、すかさず”Which kee are you? Yankee, Monkey or Donkey?”と返しスタスタ歩き去ってしまった逸話の持ち主でもある(関谷氏サイトより)。


Here's a clip from today's photo blog, Paris Tokyo.
KM's photo collection from Nikko trip is my favorite.



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