Did Lord Takayama Introduce the Japanese Tea Ceremony (茶の湯) in Manila?

Could Lord Takayama – a.k.a. Minami-no-Bô TAKAYAMA Hida no-kami – have shown the Manila-based religious missionary orders the refinements of the Japanese tea ceremony? Actually, there is no archival account, but there is a titillating anecdote. (Photos from Urasenke International.)

►When Lord Justo Ukon Takayama (1552-1615) arrived in Manila with 350 Japanese Christian exiles on Sunday, Dec. 21, 1614 — tea, coffee and ‘tsokolate’ were the hot drinks of choice in the Walled City. The Chinese traded and settled in the Philippines for hundreds of years before the Spaniards came, so tea was just another health drink, available by the kettle at the bazaars of the ‘Parian de los Sanglayes.’

Tea from China was being served in Manila like an everyday beverage. There was no ceremony like the Japanese developed.

Certainly, Lord Takayama was the first Japanese authority on the Japanese Tea Ceremony to arrive in Manila. But the Jesuit accounts did not contain any reference that Takayama had introduced the ceremony. It is unlikely that Takayama would have thought of the Manila Cathedral as a proper venue for such a cultural encounter.

Did Ukon Takayama Bring Utensils for the Japanese Tea Ceremony to Manila?

When Ukon Takayama bade goodbye in February 14, 1614 to Lord Toshinaga Maeda (1562-June 7, 1614) — who was uncertain whether Takayama would fight the Tokugawa deportation order – Maeda accepted the proffer of gold nuggets Ukon earned for the previous year, but declined the tea utensils which Takayama prized so much. Presumably, Ukon brought with him these utensils (and a supply of green tea) on his voyage to exile.

Sen no Rikyū, the leading teamaster of the regent Toyotomi Hideyoshi, is perhaps the best-known — and still revered — historical figure in tea ceremony. He followed his master Takeno Jōō‘s concept of ichi-go ichi-e, a philosophy that each meeting should be treasured, for it can never be reproduced. His teachings perfected many newly developed forms in architecture and gardensart, and the full development of the “Way of Tea.” The principles he set forward — harmony (和 wa), respect (敬 kei), purity (清 sei), and tranquility (寂 jaku) — are still central to tea ceremony today.

Ukon Takayama was one of seven prized pupils of Sen no Rikyū (1522 – April 21, 1591), who is considered the historical figure with the most profound influence on the development of Chanoyu. Ukon, who is always included in the variable list of the celebrated Rikyushichitetsu (Rikyu’s Seven), was credited with refining the tea ceremony into a serene celebration, with ritual movements “almost like a Mass.” The spirit of the art of tea – characterized by the qualities of harmony, reverence, purity, and tranquility — found in Ukon Takayama its Christian transfiguration.

Japanese Tea Ceremony at the Manila Cathedral

During Cardinal Jaime Sin’s stewardship as Manila Archbishop (1974-2003), he permitted some Japanese teamasters from the Urasenke School to celebrate their tea ceremony at the Manila Cathedral – right in front of the main altar. They brought the story that Lord Takayama had been the first to celebrate the Japanese tea ceremony in Manila – at the Manila Cathedral itself.

The Japanese tea ceremony, also called the ‘Way of Tea,’ is a Japanese cultural activity involving the ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha (抹茶), powdered green tea. In Japanese, it is called chanoyu (茶の湯) or sadō, chadō (茶道), while the manner in which it is performed, or the art of its performance, is called (o)temae ([お]手前; [お]点前). As demonstrated by Dr. Genshitsu Sen XV,15th Grand Master of the Urasenke Tea School at the Manila Cathedral, the elaborate and refined Japanese tea ceremony is meant to demonstrate respect through grace and good etiquette.

Since the 16th Century, the Japanese tradition of tea ceremony has aimed at attaining serenity through the sharing of a bowl of tea. Dr. Genshitsu Sen XV travels all over the world to promote his idea of achieving “Peace on Earth — Through a Bowl of Tea.” As he did at the Manila Cathedral, he conducted a formal tea offering service at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in New York, in a prayer for World Peace. The church was filled with attendees, who joined with Dr. Sen in this solemn service praying for “Peace on Earth — Through a Bowl of Tea.”

He has participated in numerous other events focused on fostering peace, for instance in the United Nations (the Millennium Assembly in 2000, and the General Assembly in 2010) and in Pearl Harbor (Hawaii).

‘Corroborative Blog’?

I CHANCED upon a “corroborative” blog, “Adnilem’s Journey” <www.adnilemel.blogspot.com> by a Filipina resident of Japan. After two decades in Japan, she had finally decided to enroll in a class on the tea ceremony in 2009. The class was conducted by Prof. Shizuo Mochizuki of Urasenke International Association.

“At long last… after my 20 years stay here in Japan… I had the chance to attend the Japanese culture of CHADOU or known as tea ceremony class… The class is sponsored by Shizuoka City Association for Multicultural Exchange. Our class is lucky to have a good and humorous instructor, Prof. Shizuo Mochizuki of Urasenke International Association. In the course of the lecture on “Chadou,” Prof. Mochizuki discussed its history, philosophy and manners. He taught us that the “Chadou” (literally, “Way of Tea”) translation of tea ceremony is not proper. It should be “tea gathering.” Tea ceremony refers to the Buddist priests or monks who formally offer tea to the temple or shrine’s Buddha. Tea gathering is to enjoy the spirit of tea in a warm and relaxed atmosphere.

“Learning that I came from the Philippines, Prof. Shizuo Mochizuki told the class that he had been to Philippines with his tea associates and his memorable experience was at the Manila Cathedral where they were shown an antique feather brush used as one of the tools in tea preparation. It was presented to the church [Manila Cathedral] by a well-known Japanese Catholic tea master — Minami-no-Bô TAKAYAMA Hida no-kami, better known as Takayama Ukon — who was exiled to Philippines in the old era.”

That anecdote would mean Lord Takayama Ukon – who was known in tea circles as Minami-no-Bô TAKAYAMA Hida no-kami — had performed the tea ceremony for a select group during his 44-day sojourn in Manila. At the Manila Cathedral (III) itself.

A Sen-no-Rikyū Souvenir?

What sort of ‘antique feather brush’ was the Sen no Rikyū sovenir?

The ‘antique feather brush used as one of the tools in tea preparation’ belonging to Ukon Takayama is well-remembered in Japanese tea-circles. It had been given to Ukon as a gift from Sen no Rikyū.

Lord Takayama was credited with refining the tea ceremony into a serene celebration, with ritual movements “almost like a Mass.”

Could it be true? The Manila Cathedral of 1614 was the THIRD edifice on the site. The Manila Cathedral in post-war Manila is Cathedral No. 8. Could the tea implement have survived the transition from Manila Cathedral #3 (in 1614) to Cathedral #8 (during Cardinal Sin’s stewardship in 1974-2003)?#

By Dr. Ernesto A. de Pedro
Takayama Trustee

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