If you think the British are particular about their tea, think again. The forthcoming exhibition “Chigusa and the Art of Tea” at the Freer-Sackler Museum in Washington, DC (22 February-27 July), offers a peek into Omotesenke, a secret society devoted to traditional Japanese tea-making. The centerpiece of the exhibition is a 700-year-old stoneware tea-leaf storage jar affectionately named Chigusa. Never before exhibited in the US, Chigusa was held in Japanese private collections until the Freer-Sackler purchased it at auction in 2009 for $662,500. Few jars with comparable documentation survive. Since the 16th century, tea connoisseurs have dressed Chigusa up in adornments, including gold-brocaded silk and a sky blue netted bag, before beginning the ceremony. The process remains a closely guarded secret: although the ceremony can be seen via a video in the exhibition, members of Omotesenke would not permit it to be broadcast online. Visitors to the Freer-Sackler can witness the entire ceremony and sample the traditional whisked green tea for themselves on 23 March, 6 April and 28 June.
From In The Frame
Published online: 24 February 2014