IMPERIAL HOTEL

Spatial Poetry TO SOOTHE THE SOUL, AN EXTRAORDINARY TEA SERVICE

IMPERIAL HOTEL TOKO-AN 01

The Imperial Hotel in Tokyo is nothing if not an enticing kaleidoscope of
everything Japanese, new and old. One irresistible face for many of
our guests from overseas is the seductive Toko-an Tea Pavilion,
a collection of finely crafted sukiyazukuri parlors created to spotlight
the quintessentially Japanese art of preparing, presenting and drinking green tea,
transcended to the levels of an art form of the highest degree.
Above is the foyer of the Toko-an, designed for us by the legendary
Togo Murano, who also several years ago re-created parts of the imperial palace.

IMPERIAL HOTEL TOKO-AN 02

Colors in the tatami floored Toko-an above reflect the tranquil, natural hues of
sand, grasses and woods. Tools for the tea ceremonies offered there include
richly lacquered black and gold tea powder boxes and accessories, blue and
white porcelains and a furo, a kind of hibachi, with charcoals used to heat the water used to
make the tea. A scroll of poetry hangs in the alcove. In olden times one
tatami mat was the designated size for private use for one person.

IMPERIAL HOTEL TOKO-AN 03

The elegantly fluid movement of the tea master in the Toko-an makes
it clear she has spent decades perfecting her skills in every minute step of
the lavishly complex ritual and in deftly whisking the tea powder into
a frothy green tea; the device she employs to whisk the powder into
tea is made from fine, thin strips of bamboo. The individual tea cups
used in the tea service are often works of art by acclaimed potters or of
distinguished provenance. The cups are held in an elaborately defined,
highly ritualized fashion and meant to be appreciated
by both the drinker and those nearby.

IMPERIAL HOTEL TOKO-AN 04

Passages in the sleek Toko-an bask in varying shades of light and lead to
chambers of various sizes where tea is served together with greatly stylized
Japanese sweets in shapes, textures, tastes and colors created to enrich the
impression of harmony and emphasize an appreciation of nature, as seen in
the following page. The culture of the tea ceremony requires guests to
follow strictly prescribed movements. Quietude is cherished and
meditation invited. Guests are requested to enter via tiny entryways
originally meant to assure the sword-bearing samurai of
olden times removed their weapons before entering.

onward