A celebration of tea and tea utensils

The nature of the tea gathering I want to highlight for the third and last part of this blog post is unique in the sense that the hosts were not the typical experts or masters of the art of tea one would expect. 

Instead, they were creators of the utensils used during the tea gathering. Those craftsmen or artists were keenly interested in exploring and assessing the relationship between their work and tea, as well as the interaction and connection between the users and their work. Since the participants, including myself, were attracted to the tea gathering primarily due to our interest in the artists and their work, it was my opinion that the tea utensils had taken the center stage despite the careful selection and infusion of tea leaves by the respective hosts. That being said, it was a unique experience for me and I greatly enjoyed it.

I attended four sittings of the tea gathering during the second day of an exhibition with a Chinese title of 日本生活器物展 and English title of Living Crafts Beside Life. The exhibition, which took two years to plan, was organized by famous wood craftsman 三谷龍二 Ryuji Mitani, and hosted by teacher 謝小曼 Hsieh Xiao Man. According to Mr. Mitani, the exhibition was the largest of its kind outside of Japan. Even within Japan, there has yet been an exhibition of such scale. 


The tea gathering took place inside an exhibition area designed by Taiwanese architect and interior designer 陳瑞憲Ray Chen. Large pieces of soft white see-through cotton fabrics were used, lowered from ceiling to floor, to create sections across the entire space. In addition to separating different functional areas, this design also helped create an aura of quietness and guided the traffic of guests as they moved around to appreciate the exhibited craftworks from 13 Japanese artists. The tea gathering section was again divided into two halves by one piece of white cotton fabric to both separate and facilitate the simultaneous occurrence of two tea gatherings by different hosts.

The hosts for the four respective sittings of tea I attended were washi artist ハタノワタル Wataru Hatano, wood craftsman 三谷龍二 Ryuji Mitani, glass artist 

辻和美 Kazumi Tsuji, and ceramic artist 寒川義雄 Yoshio Kangawa. Each of them was responsible for preparing and serving tea to twelve guests during two consecutive sittings.

Depending on the adaptability of their respective work to a tea setting, the four artists incorporated their exhibited work to prepare or serve tea, snacks and sweets to guests. The teas they served included green tea, red/fully oxidized tea, puer tea and wulong tea. Many of them brought sweets from Japan to serve their respective guests. Details of each of the four artist-hosted tea gatherings can be found in the following blog posts. 


In addition to the artist-hosted tea gatherings, teacher Xiao Man hosted a number of tea gatherings using selective exhibited works for groups of twelve people during the remainder of the exhibition. Another interesting feature of the exhibition was a tea bar, which was open to the public during the course of the entire event. 

At the tea bar, each guest was served one tea and sweets using utensils made by the participating artists and were arranged according to the likings of the bartender at the time. Depending on who was assigned to tea bar, guests could find themselves served by the event organizer Ryuji Mitani, the event host Hsieh Xiao Man, the architect/designer Ray Chen, any of the attending artists or Xiao Man’s outstanding students. 

Whether it was the artist-hosted tea gathering or the tea bar, the tea events of the exhibition were arranged to enable guests to experience handcrafted objects and how to enjoy those objects in everyday living. The opportunity to interact with the participating artists in attendance through the assistance of interpreters also helped guests understand the materials used for crafting the work, and the artist’s thoughts behind designing and creating the object.