Rei Mitsui (Architect)

Born in 1983, Aichi, Japan, Mitsui conducted Master's study on Japanese tea rooms at the Graduate School of Engineering, University of Tokyo. After embarking on a career at Kengo Kuma & Associates, he established Rei Mitsui Architects in 2015. One of his works, Renovation of "Kanban-Style" building, was featured in a number of prominent Japanese architecture magazines including Shin Kenchiku and Kenchiku Gijutsu. Selected awards include the U-35 / Under 35 Architects exhibition 2017 Gold Medal.

October 3, 2018

Part 3 Shokatei at Katsura Imperial Villa

Members of the Imperial Family were the first to enjoy the luxury of tea, a valuable item at that time, before the art of the tea ceremony was established by Rikyu. They built tearooms called kizoku-gonomi (designed by “kizoku” or the Imperial Family members) often in the soan (rustic house) style and form. These structures give rustic impressions of the soan style at a glance, but closer observation shows that they were designed in refined and elegant ways. Technically speaking, many of them were not designed as “chasitsu” (tearoom) but as “chaya” (teahouse) or more unrestricted structures, and therefore often given names ending with “tei” (gazebo or pavilion without walls). Members of the Imperial Family were the first to enjoy the luxury of tea, a valuable item at that time, before the art of the tea ceremony was established by Rikyu. They built tearooms called kizoku-gonomi (designed by “kizoku” or the Imperial Family members) often in the soan (rustic house) style and form. These structures give rustic impressions of the soan style at a glance, but closer observation shows that they were designed in refined and elegant ways. Technically speaking, many of them were not designed as “chasitsu” (tearoom) but as “chaya” (teahouse) or more unrestricted structures, and therefore often given names ending with “tei” (gazebo or pavilion without walls).

Shokatei[1] at Katsura Imperial Villa[2]

Part 3 discusses Shokatei at Katsura Imperial Villa. The Katsura Imperial Villa site is dotted with four famous chaya respectively designed to celebrate specific seasons: Gepparo for autumn, Shokin-tei for winter, Shokatei for spring, and Shoiken for summer.
Shokatei, the subject of this essay, is a chaya-type structure situated on a mound made of excavated soil from a pond construction. It is a pavilion consisting of a 2-ken (3.6m) wide and 1.5-ken (2.7m) deep space with an earth floor surrounded by a bench-like raised tatami floor along three sides, forming a C-shape.
The north facade of Shokatei is completely open without any wall. It is covered only with a noren (a kind of curtain with vertical slits hung under the eaves) and offers a panoramic view toward the pond. The remaining three facades have large windows, and this open structure naturally blends into the surrounding greenery.

August 10, 2018

Part 2: Jo-an

It seems reasonable to assume that chanoyu, or the Japanese “Way of Tea” established by Sen no Rikyu, was spread and led by sengoku busho or warlords. It is clearly explained by the fact that all of Rikyu’s seven sages were warlords.
During this time, chanoyu was widely practiced by warlords probably because they needed tranquil places and time to clear their minds and concentrate on tea ceremony, in order to momentarily forget about the turbulent period. What kind of tea rooms, as well as their windows, did warlords build, while constantly living with the fear of death?

 

 

Jo-an

Part 2 discusses Jo-an, one of the National Treasure tea houses. Jo-an is a small-sized tea room, specifically a nijohan-daime (a two-and-a half plus three-quarters tatami-sized room) mukougiri (one of different placements for locating ro, or a sunken hearth, where ro is cut into the inner edge of the host’s tatami mat at the far corner adjacent to the guest’s tatami mat. See Notes 1) tea room built by warlord Uraku (Nagamasa) Oda, which may be said to be the completely opposite type of tea room from Tai-an built by Rikyu. Uraku Oda, the youngest brother of the famous warlord Nobunaga Oda, was a warrior who lived through the Sengoku era (the age of warring states) as well as a tea master who lived in the same time as Rikyu and recognized as one of his ten sages.

Jo-an was originally built at Shoden-in at Kennin-ji Temple in Kyoto. It was relocated to Hachiroemon Mitsui’s main residence in the Meiji Period, and to his second residence in Oiso, Kanagawa Prefecture in the early Showa Period. Currently, it is located at Uraku-en Garden at the foot of Inuyama Castle, Aichi Prefecture.

Seating oneself in Jo-an, one notices Uraku’s genius at once. One cannot help admiring his talent and thinking of his blood ties with Nobunaga, the powerful ruler of the warring states.

May 17, 2018

Part 1: Tai-an at Myoki-an Temple

  Chashitsu or the Japanese tea room was a unique architecture that was built without any expressive ornaments at a time when rich ornamentation was a general trend in architecture. While its main protagonist is tea itself, it is designed in such a way that guests can enjoy sitting there during a four-hour duration by providing various ingenious design elements subtly concealed in the space. This serial article focuses on and discusses characteristics of tea room windows that brought about dramatic changes in Japanese architecture.

 

 

Tai-an at Myoki-an Temple

Part 1 focuses on the Tai-an at the Myoki-an Temple, one of the National Treasures in Japan. The Tai-an is a two tatami-sized corner hearth-style tea room designed by Sen no Rikyu and recognized as the oldest existing tea room in Japan. It is considered as one of the most important existing tea rooms, because it is the origin of the Japanese tea room and the subsequent evolution would not have occurred without it.