Making Tea, Making Japan: Cultural Nationalism in Practice

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By Kristin Surak

The tea rite persists as some of the most evocative symbols of Japan. initially a hobby of elite warriors in premodern society, it was once later recast as a symbol of the fashionable jap nation, simply to be remodeled back into its present incarnation, mostly the pastime of middle-class housewives. How does the cultural perform of some come to symbolize a kingdom as a complete?

Although few non-Japanese students have peered in the back of the partitions of a tea room, sociologist Kristin Surak got here to understand the internal workings of the tea global over the process ten years of tea education. the following she deals the 1st entire research of the perform that incorporates new fabric on its historic adjustments, a close excavation of its institutional association, and a cautious exam of what she phrases "nation-work"—the exertions that connects the nationwide meanings of a cultural perform and the particular adventure and enactment of it. She concludes via putting tea rite in comparative viewpoint, drawing on different expressions of nation-work, resembling gymnastics and track, in Europe and Asia.

Taking readers on a unprecedented trip into the elusive global of tea rite, Surak bargains an insightful account of the elemental procedures of modernity—the paintings of constructing nations.

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As a foreigner, my tea community was once extra assorted than xii preface that of such a lot, with even contemporary neighbors wanting to tackle the mantle of cultural ambassadorship by means of sharing their curiosity within the perform. simply because i used to be generally requested approximately what i used to be doing in Japan, occasionally a talk with a stranger on a bus may lead to a call for participation to a tea collecting. The uncle of an acquaintance may need attended highschool with the top (an iemoto) of a selected tuition or type of tea training. The buddy of a chum may well take me alongside to a neighborhood tea competition. As I acquired to understand humans concerned about a few tea organisations, I requested them to introduce me to different practitioners—both standard and notable—in order to discover the tea world’s kind. the non-public introductions have been crucial for chipping away on the barrier usually erected among “Japanese” and “foreigners,” with its idealized factors, and making attainable extra matter-of-fact conversations. the buildup of time and data ended in a metamorphosis, as i used to be taken care of much less as just a foreigner and extra as a overseas researcher, a overseas tea practitioner, or perhaps easily a researcher or a tea practitioner. my very own tea education— ten years of classes resulting in a educating certification—also aided this method. while traveling a category, i might frequently aid out with arrangements backstage, the place the formality of the tea room (and the formality of a trip through a international researcher) is damaged and daily conversations and lawsuits are heard. Washing tea bowls used to be frequently as informative as observing the tea being made. additional palms are liked at greater tea gatherings, and that i volunteered to aid at as many as i may. whilst longer conversations emerged in the course of slower moments, I advised humans i used to be accomplishing examine at the tea rite and requested approximately their adventure. In such circumstances, i used to be handled as a (foreign) tea practitioner, who may be relied upon for useful assist in the again or living room. A decade of tea education additionally helped me comprehend the customarily really good speak that happens in tea settings as practitioners communicate approximately utensils, artists, and tea masters. yet, extra importantly, it enabled me to determine how humans act inside of, or control, the strictures and constructions of the tea international. The years spent kneeling in entrance of the boiling kettle have been crucial for differentiating among a real praise and a back-handed praise, or spotting while a mistake has been made yet purposefully neglected. The time additionally cultivated a deep wisdom of the embodied perform of creating tea, on which I draw seriously during this booklet. yet irrespective of how “natural” my physically comportment grew to become, and regardless of how a lot tea services I collected, i used to be nonetheless a foreigner in Japan accomplishing fieldwork. To the level that i've got tested how those iden- preface xiii tifications impact the knowledge produced and picked up, they've been now not obstacles yet assets. simply because my very presence primed the relevance of Japaneseness in interactions, I draw seriously on events whilst my involvement was once peripheral or nonexistent: tea demonstrations through eastern for eastern, tea books written in jap for eastern, tea tv courses produced in eastern for eastern.

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