By Kristin Surak

The tea rite persists as probably the most evocative symbols of Japan. initially a hobby of elite warriors in premodern society, it was once later recast as a symbol of the trendy eastern kingdom, purely to be remodeled back into its present incarnation, mostly the pastime of middle-class housewives. How does the cultural perform of some come to symbolize a state as a whole?

Although few non-Japanese students have peered at the back of the partitions of a tea room, sociologist Kristin Surak got here to grasp the interior workings of the tea global over the process ten years of tea education. the following she bargains the 1st accomplished research of the perform that incorporates new fabric on its old adjustments, an in depth excavation of its institutional association, and a cautious exam of what she phrases "nation-work"—the hard work that connects the nationwide meanings of a cultural perform and the particular adventure and enactment of it. She concludes through putting tea rite in comparative point of view, drawing on different expressions of nation-work, corresponding to gymnastics and tune, in Europe and Asia.

Taking readers on a unprecedented trip into the elusive international of tea rite, Surak bargains an insightful account of the elemental methods of modernity—the paintings of constructing countries.

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Additional resources for Making Tea, Making Japan: Cultural Nationalism in Practice

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34 In traditional flower arrangement (ikebana) the blossoms are angled according to strict rules passed down within an iemoto-headed school, but only a handful of explicit dictates guide the placement of flowers in the tea ceremony (chabana). Practitioners, for the most part, do not attend separate classes to learn the skill, but simply pick up a feel for “good sense” through the accumulated experience of viewing such displays over time. Often it is the teacher who positions the flowers—sometimes a single bud in the colder months or a larger bouquet in the warmer ones—to ensure that the subtle arrangement is expertly accomplished.

Thus even if not a typical example, this tea complex is a good example, for its seriousness—as well as that of the lessons that take place inside it—renders in sharper detail the ideal to which tea practice is held. Mushin’an is tucked away in Roppongi, one of Tokyo’s many hubs, known as a center for consulates and foreign businesses and as a popular nightlife district. Emerging from the subway, one is beset by ten-story highrises lining the street and an elevated highway blocking the sun. The megalithic Mori Building—symbol of the decadent Tokyo architecture planned during the economic bubble of the 1980s that combines shopping, working, and entertainment—beckons in one direction, and Tokyo Tower, a red steel TV transmission station inspired by Eiffel’s Parisian creation that serves as an architectural symbol of the city itself, guides the way to the tea room.

27 Yet the depth of this association goes beyond symbolic claims. The tatami mat floors, the earthen walls, the sliding paper doors stand out against the mundane modern architecture of everyday experience, yet they share commonalities with other locales seen as storehouses of tradition—such as temples or ryokan inns—that reinforce their Japaneseness. The exceptional ­materials, relative emptiness, and infrequent use of tea rooms define them as a space apart, where details and discrepancies catch the eye and afford a legibly Japanese experience to tea participants drawing on connections and contrasts beyond their immediate environment.

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