The Beauty of Chanoyu Curated by Sen Souoku ―― Selected Works from the Collection

2017.10.27(Fri) - 2017.12.10(Sun)


The custom of tea-drinking was introduced from China to Japan in the 12th century, and became widely practiced at zen temples. In the Muromachi period (14-16th centuries), those in power took likings in tea-drinking as pastime for marveling imported Chinese utensils. Toward the end of the 15th century, Murata Jukō initiated the wabi-cha, tea ceremony in rustic simplicity, to be appreciated in sōan (a frugal little hut). Takeno Jōō, a wealthy merchant in the Sakai district of Osaka, promoted this particular style of tea ceremony among townspeople, and it was later formalized and established by Sen no Rikyū. While respecting the traditional ways, masters of tea ceremony also created new utensils to match their aesthetic sensitivity. The scope of the practice gradually extended to influence architecture, landscaping, cuisine and ikebana, eventually forming a comprehensive practicing art, chanoyu—the Japanese Way of Tea. This refined form of art today represents Japanese culture.

MOA Museum of Art presents an exhibition of chanoyu to showcase its beauty, with arrangements of items carefully selected from the Museum’s exclusive collection of tea utensils. Our guest curator is Sen So-oku, a hereditary successor of the iemoto of Mushakojisenke and an innovator of modern chanoyu with his rich knowledge and expertise in fine arts, from antiques to modern art. He has created the arrangements of the utensils, effectively recreating the ambience of a tea room in a special display case using Japanese traditional materials to maximize the enjoyment of these utensils. The case was designed by New Material Research Laboratory led by an internationally renowned modern art creator, Hiroshi Sugimoto and architect Tomoyuki Sakakida.
The exhibition rolls outside the gallery—a special display in the Golden Tearoom, light meal and tea in the Cha no Niwa (Tea Garden), select chanoyu items found in the Museum Shop, as well as a lecture and demonstration by Sen So-oku. The exhibition unfolds in many parts of the Museum site, inviting you to live and feel the world of chanoyu.


1.Karamono arranged in a spacious Japanese-style display area

An insight into the world of chanoyu in Muromachi period, which favored Karamono (imported refined Chinese implements of tea ceremony) and was popular among Muromachi Shogunate elites. The displayed are masterpieces of Karamono paintings collected by the Shogun family and a pair of scroll paintings attributed to Mokkei (Muqi  Fachang) ‘Wagtail on a Withered Lotus / Kingfisher on a Reed’ as well as Karamono kaigu (service implements) and daisu (display shelf).

2.Chanoyu tea bowls - masterpieces

Tea bowls are the most familiar chanoyu utensils of all. Focusing on tea bowls, selections of Chinese tenmoku, and Korean and Japanese tea bowls are coordinated with specially chosen scroll paintings. They will take you through a journey of changes in aesthetic senses over various periods.

3.National treasure ‘Tea-leaf Jar with a design of Wisteria’ and kuchikiri tea ceremony

Nonomura Ninsei’s masterpiece, ‘Tea-leaf Jar with a design of Wisteria’ (National Treasure) is displayed in the new special gallery, decorated totally in black plaster through the renewal of the Museum building. Originally, the jar was created as an ornament modelled on the tea-leaf jar designed for kuchikiri tea ceremony.

The kuchikiri is a practice that is observed at the most important event of the tea calendar, robiraki (opening of the winter hearth). The tea master as a host opens the sealed tea jar containing preserved tea of the latest harvest, which is then ground using a stone grind and served in koicha (strong tea).

This section of the exhibition presents the ‘Tea-leaf Jar with a design of Wisteria’ and chanoyu utensils used for the kuchikiri tea ceremony, together with a video presentation of the ceremony directed by Sen So-oku specially for this exhibition.

4.Tea masters’ taste and favorites

From Rikyū the establishing authority of wabi-cha to Furuta Oribe, Kobori Enshū, Sen no Sōtan and his four disciples, the exhibition explores tea masters’ aesthetic awareness through their taste and favorite utensils. There are also the tea utensils associated with Matsudaira Fumai, a daimyo who ruled the Matsue Domain (present-day Shimane prefecture), to commemorate a bicentenary of his death.