Okakura Kakuzo, a flamboyant teacher, art connoisseur, poet, and lover, is concerned that we know nothing about tea--and, therefore, nothing about life itself. In using the characters from his own richly colored life, and interweaving them with lessons from the artful tea ceremony, Okakura draws parallels between the cup of amber liquid and its ritual use in cha-no-yu, the only Japanese art translated, however badly, into Western life. From his upbringing by American missionaries just after Perry’s Black Ships opened up Japan, to his appointment to a Japanese arts commission, Okakura lives larger than life: his affair with the Ambassador’s wife, his sojourn with the great poet Tagore in India, and, finally, to his relationship with Isabella Gardner, grande dame of the Boston art world. Okakura eventually learns the inherent humility of cha-no-yu and is able to integrate, finally, the diverse rumbling characters from his past. As the author of The Book of Tea, still in publication one hundred years after it first appeared in Boston, Okakura Kakuzo knows about life.
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