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  • Amir is a fashion entrepreneur by day and a Lyft driver by night.

  • He's planning a trip to Japan, so something tells me he's going to love what we have to show him.

  • Welcome to the Freer and the Sackler galleries.

  • Oh, wow.

  • Thank you.

  • XAVIER CARNEGIE: Curator Louise Cort is excited to show off one of the museum's star artifacts.

  • Have you ever been in museum storage before?

  • Never.

  • This is a first. - Oh, good.

  • [LAUGHING]

  • I'm really excited about it.

  • I am, too.

  • Here we are in the storeroom.

  • Oh, nice.

  • Come on in.

  • Very cool.

  • XAVIER CARNEGIE: Amir might be wondering why we dragged him back here to see a brown jar, but this jar has a very unusual tale to tell.

  • Jars like this were made in southern China by the thousands--

  • AMIR BYRON BROWDER: Wow.

  • LOUISE CORT: --every day.

  • These were like the Tupperware of their time.

  • XAVIER CARNEGIE: These ordinary jars were mass produced in China to transport goods across Asia's thriving trade routes.

  • Most didn't survive the journey.

  • But this jar made it to Japan in the late 1300s and was put to use storing a valuable delicacy, tea.

  • Around that time, tea drinking had become an extremely important ritual in the upper reaches of Japanese society.

  • This was a custom that was practiced, in particular, by the ruling warrior class.

  • The people we know sometimes as samurai were the ones who, as the rulers of the country, popularized the drinking of tea.

  • XAVIER CARNEGIE: The samurai embraced tea drinking as a cultural dimension to their personas as military conquerors, and they turned it into a competition.

  • LOUISE CORT: They practiced it much like many people practice drinking wine today.

  • They test the aroma and compare the flavor and try to guess where the wine was made.

  • So there were tea drinking contests in the 14th century.

  • AMIR BYRON BROWDER: Tea drinking contests.

  • Wow.

  • LOUISE CORT: And they'd have to write down which plantation--

  • AMIR BYRON BROWDER: Uh-huh.

  • LOUISE CORT: --they thought the tea had been grown in.

  • XAVIER CARNEGIE: Over time, tea drinking became less of a contest and more of an art form.

  • Tea jars became the most revered objects for display in tea ceremonies.

  • This particular jar became the prized possession of Japan's wealthiest and most powerful men.

  • By the 16th century, it became so famous it was even given a name, Chigusa.

  • Not every jar for storing tea leaves would get a name.

  • Only the jars that everyone agreed were really very handsome.

Amir is a fashion entrepreneur by day and a Lyft driver by night.

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How Tea Drinking Became an Important Part of Japanese Culture

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    nanako.kamiya posted on 2021/02/25
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