Kagastyle Teahouse to Sooth the Soul

Kanazawa, one of the wealthiest castle towns in the Edo Period (1600-1867). was also famous for its elegant culture. Arts such as the tea ceremony flourished under its powerful Maeda lords, and were known for their bold flourishes in comparison with the understated arts in Kyoto. The first stop on the highway that connected Kyoto to Kanazawa Castle was Nonoichi "town in the Kaga area. The Mimou home is situated along the old highway in this town. This stately mansion, along with its various tearooms and storehouses, was built by the influential Mimou family in the 1870s, soon after the time of the Meiji Revolution in 1968.

The main Mimou house is built in the Sukiya style, the style of tea ceremony. A tea garden is an integral part of the Sukiya experience, and acts as an interface between the tea hut and the mundane world. The garden has a series of gates or thresholds to punctuate the guests' walk on a roji stone path from the outside world to the tea hut. At each such marker, the guest may sit down and relax, releasing worldly cares to enter a "tea state of mind." The plants in the tea garden are designed to be a microcosm of nature in the deep forests, where big evergreen trees grow alongside low shrubs, and the ground is carpeted with thick moss. The views that a guest sees while walking along a meandering path on the roji are carefully considered, so as to compress the sensory experience of a longer walk in the short distance from entry to the tearoom. The roji path finally leads to a large stepping-stone placed in front of the tearoom, usually surrounded by a broad earthen floor under deep eaves

The eight-mat tearoom in the Mimou house shows a connoisseur's refined taste, and exquisite care taken to heighten the intrinsic beauty of nature. Shoji windows and doors are placed and fitted with painstaking consideration for garden views and the lighting conditions during certain hours of the day. Filtered light through thick rice paper gives soft luster to a painting of deer on silvery fusuma doors. Handmade white paper, pasted to the lower part of brown-coated walls, reflects the light, adding a bit of brightness. The hanging scroll in the tokonoma alcove is complemented by an arrangement of fresh flowers, lea flowers are arranged as modestly and naturally as possible. On the second floor of the tearoom is a formal room with ten tatami mats. This guest room has walls of bold red ocher characteristic of this area, a urushi lacquered ceiling and ornate carvings on the transoms. These rooms, with their superb garden view over the veranda, are typical embodiments of the strong relationship between Japanese interiors and the garden.

The 18th owner, Michiko Mimou, learned the art of tea ceremony in her childhood. She has also inherited a vast collection of hanging scrolls, folding screens, tea utensils and pottery, from which she carefully selects items for display according to seasonal themes. Michiko says that on a fine day, when she is sitting quietly in the room with birds chirping and the leaves rustling in her garden, she feels the presence of her ancestors who must have done similar things in this very house.

Machiya GardenShoin Style Architecture

Above: Mastering the tea ceremony involves learning five arts: tea preparation, ikebana, tea style cooking, cearoom design and calligraphy An elegant collection of calligraphy tools displayed on a platform (biwa doko) was originally meant for holding a four-stringed Japanese lute called a biwa. Here the biwa doko is acting as a shoin desk in formal rooms, on which it is customary to display writing tools—such desks were once used by monks for writing. A traditional ink stone is flanked by an ink-stick, and a brush that sits on a metal brush-rest shaped like a litde boy. A tiny celadon water bottle, used for mixing ink, sits against a tiny blue-white screen.

Left: A symphony of color and simple lines lends the crucial sense of calm to this tearoom. Handcrafted square cushions (zabuton) with persimmon dyes and a black lacquer container with sweets for a tea ceremony await guests. When the preparations for the tea ceremony are complete, the gong hanging from the ceiling on the left is struck, alerting guests in the next room that the preparations for the ceremony have been completed. Paper cut in an angular pattern lines the lowermost portion of the wall (koshibari), protecting the guests' kimonos from the brown clay.

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Above: The square piece of tatanii mat covers a hearth used for making tea during the winter season. Beautiful tea utensils have been set in front of an antique low screen. The iron teapot is an heirloom inscribed with the crest of an Edo Period local lord. The 16th century ceramic container with a goldfish design is from Jingdezhen in China.

Right: In the words of the famous tea master Sen no Rikyu, a delicious cup of tea should be served so that it is cooling in summer and warming in winter. Whipped green tea (matcha) is served here with a tea sweet in the color and shape of hydrangea, a seasonal flower.

Japan Table Cloth

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This tearoom, known as Shika-no-ma, was built in the early 20th century. The distinctive feature of the room—named after the shika. or deer—is the delightful fusuma doors showing a pair of deer on a silver background. The painting depicts a buck looking down lovingly at a pregnant doe.

Above: The large stepping-stone is placed in front of the Shika-no-ma tearoom, indicating the separation of the interior and the exterior.

Right: Plants in a Japanese tea garden are selected to mimic natural growth as closely as possible, with just a few flowering plants. The moss-covered lantern in this garden is placed so as to be partially hidden by the foliage and not be overdy showy.

Above: The large stepping-stone is placed in front of the Shika-no-ma tearoom, indicating the separation of the interior and the exterior.

Right: Plants in a Japanese tea garden are selected to mimic natural growth as closely as possible, with just a few flowering plants. The moss-covered lantern in this garden is placed so as to be partially hidden by the foliage and not be overdy showy.

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Ranma Japanese HouseNisihonngannji

Above: Guests are ushered into this drawing room to eat a simple meal served before a ceremonial tea. A low folding screen (byobu) depicts a bamboo grove and the transom (ranma) above showcases openwork with a pattern of seven Chinese wise men in a bamboo forest.

Right: The shoin or the built-in desk on the left of the tokonomo marks this as a formal room. The bold red tone of its tokonomo wall is a special feature of the Kaga/Kanazawa area. Wood is first painted with red ocher, and then lacquered to a lustrous finish. The avoidance of repetition is a distinctive feature of the Sukiya style, as seen in the three different designs on the shoji in this room.

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Sukiya Teahouse

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The relationship of the interior and the garden is very important in Sukiya-style architecture. The packed gravel floor inside extends out, strengthening the feeling of continuity. As is typical of homes in northern Japan, this do-en can be closed off with removable shutters, separating the columns from the garden, to provide an additional layer of protection against the winter cold. This garden contains the essential elements of a traditional tea garden (cha-niwa): the washbasin for purification, the stone lantern, a stepping-stone pathway, and the tree trunk and ground covered with ten kinds of moss.

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