The Green Teaist Book Store
(The Green Teaist offers the most extensive collection of books on teas around the world, their history, provenance, practices and customs, with emphasis on the green teas of Japan. You may wish to browse the more than 30 titles at TGT Lake Forest and a more limited collection at TGT Beverly Hills. We review each book in our expanding collection and, perhaps, interest you in increasing your understanding of teas.)
The Book of Tea, Kakuzo Okakura, 99 pp, Dover Publications: 2010
The Dover Publications edition of The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okura is one of the more recent editions of this famous work, still in print after its first publication in 1906, several of which have been reviewed previously in the TGT Newsletter.
This edition of The Book of Tea is of particular interest as it contains an extensive foreword by Everett F. Bleiler, a noted science fiction author and an editor at Dover for many years. His introduction to The Book of Tea is, perhaps, the most trenchant of any other commentators on Okakura who sought to introduce the culture and aesthetics of Japan to a western audience through the practice and symbolism of the Tea Ceremony or "The Way of Tea." In spite of the overwhelmingly critical acclaim with which The Book of Tea was received when first published, and still commands, Bleiler, while acknowledging the genius of Okakura and The Book of Tea, believed that, to some extent, Okakura was overly captivated by his belief in "imitation for the sake of antiquity," creating cultural and aesthetic conflicts between east and west.
Bleiler's description of the finer details of the Tea Ceremony is curiously inaccurate and indicates a lack of rudimentary knowledge of or experience with The Way of Tea. He does not accept Okakura's conclusion that "It is in the Japanese tea-ceremony that we see the culmination of tea-ideals." Such "tea-ideals" translating to the goal of perfection in which no detail is left to chance or disregarded as being too small to be of any consequence. To the western mind, although differently nuanced, it is the recognition that "the devil is in the details." He does credit Okakura's book as having been a major contributor to the West's understanding of Asia, as Okakura gives due recognition to the artistic and cultural legacy given to Japan by China and India, two of the "antiquities." Or, as in Okakura's words acknowledging Japan's cultural indebtedness to China, "Teaism was Taoism in disguise."
The Book of Tea, itself, is handsomely presented in this bound hardcover edition and is a welcome addition to the Okakura legend. The Green Teaist stocks and retails the other editions of The Book of Tea. Each of them has its respective introductory comments about Okakura, leading to a better understanding of the man and his times, not just in the context of America and Japan at the turn of the twentieth century, but, also in his interactions with the Boston Brahmins of that era.
Okakura's dynamic personality and scholarship led to his appointments as principal curator and adviser of Asian art, including Japan, India, China and Korea at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, two of the most esteemed museums in America with world-class Asian art collections, thanks in large part to Okakura.
The Book of Tea, Kakuzo Okakura, Tuttle Publishing, 1956
The Book of Tea, Kakuzo Okakura, Kodansha International, 1989
The Book of Tea, Kakuzo Okakura, Shambhala Publications, 2001