This book was first published in English in 1906, not long after Japan surprised the world by defeating Russia in the Russo-Japanese War that ended in 1905. It is said that Okakura wrote this book in an attempt to expose to the West a more delicate and traditional side of Japan and to show that despite Japan’s rapid modernization and growing economic and military power, Japan was and still is an aesthetically beautiful nation.
Although Japanese tea ceremony today is mostly practice by women, it is originally and traditionally a practice that the samurai warriors engaged in. Through this book, Okakura provided the West with an alternative vision of Japanese warriors and also for modernized Japan, which at that time was striving to become like the “masculine” West.
Today, even 100 years after this book was published, people still turn to this book to learn about Japanese cultures and values. Although times have definitely changed and the practice of tea ceremony itself may not be as common and popular anymore, this book continues to provide an insight of the way Japanese people perceive beauty.
This version of “The Book of Tea” that we have in our library is also perfect for those who are studying Japanese as it is written in both Japanese and English. When you open a page, you will find the Japanese translation on the left and the original passage written in English on the right. How convenient!