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Unformatted text preview: sunaga Hisahide (1510–77), is said on a
certain occasion to have saved his life by presenting Nobunaga with a
priceless tea caddy. Some years later, after Hisahide had joined a plot
against Nobunaga and was faced with imminent destruction, he purportedly smashed to bits another highly treasured piece, a kettle, to prevent
its falling into his adversary’s hands.
When Nobunaga in his march to power imposed his control over the
city of Sakai, then the main port in the lucrative foreign trade with China,
he acquired a number of valuable tea pieces from the collections of
wealthy Sakai merchants and took into his service several of the better
known tea masters of the city, including Sen no Rikyû. In addition to having these masters design the tearoom for his castle at Azuchi, Nobunaga
used them to preside over the frequent and elaborate tea parties he held.
It became his custom, moreover, to bestow prized tea utensils on his
lieutenants for meritorious service; and he even went so far as to make
the right of these men to hold formal tea parties a distinction that he
alone could bestow. It is recorded that Hideyoshi, when granted this
honor in 1578 after an important military victory, was overcome with
gratitude toward Nobunaga.
Upon his succession to national overlordship, Hideyoshi displayed an
especially strong fondness for mammoth social affairs and is particularly
remembered for the great tea party he held at the Kitano Shrine in Kyoto
in 1587. The party was scheduled to last for ten days, weather permitting,
and everyone, from courtiers and daimyos to townsmen and peasants and
even foreigners, was invited. Guests were required only to bring a few The Country Unified 163 utensils to serve themselves and mats to sit on. An outbreak of fighting
in Kyushu brought cancellation of the party after only one day; yet it
seems to have been thoroughly enjoyed by the great throng of people who
attended. Hideyoshi put many of his most valued tea pieces on display
and, along with Rikyû and two other tea masters from Sakai, personally
served a large number of the assembled guests.
Despite his penchant for the grandiose, Hideyoshi was also a fond admirer of wabic...
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- Spring '13