June 21, 2019

Until a few decades ago my family had been in the Kimono business in Kyoto for nearly two and a half centuries. The Way of Tea – Tea Ceremony culture had been a significant part of our life. When I was little, we hosted a tea event- Tea Ceremony once or twice a month. The preparations started with the careful selection of the theme, tea utensils, scroll, vase, flowers, menu, plates and bowls, etc.  All aspects were discussed during several separate meetings with our tea master, Master Yabunouchi, our flower master, Master Nishikawa, and our chef, Chef Tsujitome, and my father and grandfather.


When I was six or seven years old I started being included in the preparation of my family’s tea events.  I would just sit quietly between my father and grandfather while they were discussing with the various masters. Of course, I did not understand much of the millions of words exchanged, but nonetheless tried very hard to absorb the proceedings.  Sometimes a poem was discussed as a theme, or a particular flower. Poetry was beyond me but if a flower were being discussed, I would gather up my courage and asked permission to speak.  One day I asked Master Nishikawa, if I could see the flower before hand. To my surprise and joy, he responded that he would take me early the next morning to a hill where that flower was the most beautiful. Together we went and indeed the humble flower was so naturally elegant in that field, surrounded by air and light. He told me that to make a flower arrangement is “to bring the flower as well as the smell, air, field and light to your tea room to echo with the theme and with the other beautiful things that your grandfather and father

chose for the event tomorrow morning…”


Now you have a different mindset when you are choosing/picking flowers for your house, either just for yourself to spend a delightful afternoon in your living room , or inviting friends for casual lunch.


A concept inherited from the Japanese way of tea – tea ceremony, lies at the core of my relationship with art works and my approach to building a collection.  It sounds complicated and boring, but you will be very surprised to find out that you have been already practicing it instinctively without figuring it out. If you dig deeper, what you are already doing will be far more enjoyable and coming even closer to your heart.  It also gives a bird’s eye view over a mysterious maze of buying art and collecting art.   


On any given day, I would surround myself with a few art works and listen to the quiet “conversations” happening between them. Those will not be scholarly ‘explanations’ of how these works are historically or stylistically related; no such words as school, genre, era, or style will be uttered. During these encounters, the works will speak for themselves to each other. Sometimes they will  have a very intimate and most intelligent exchange in consonance while at other times they will shout at each other in dissonance. This harmonious “matchmaking” among objects of art is the essence and joy of the way of tea; it is called Toriawase. The master host of a tea event – tea ceremony is like a superb art director, who can orchestrate various elements of beauty. This series of blog entries will reveal and illustrate further how Toriawase is the spirit at the core of Mitsui Fine Arts, Inc.   as well as  how you can apply it in your living space, and at your dinner party.


About the author

Misako Mitsui

Add a comment