Masterpieces of Artisanal Japan: Wazuka tea and Ogatsu inkstones
11 February 2015, London
The connection between tea and suzuri (ink-stones for calligraphy) makes itself evident through calligraphy scrolls displayed in a tea house.
The renewed interest in drinking quality tea that small companies such as Timothy d’Offay’s Postcard Teas have helped to develop in the West now affords small tea farms in Japan the opportunity of reaching a global market that has long been dominated, and its tastes conditioned, by large multinational companies.
Wazuka has been a major producer of prime quality Uji tea since the Kamakura period. 75% of the land in Wazuka, situated on the southern edge of Kyoto Prefecture, is mountainous and covered by forest, meaning that many of the tea fields are on dangerously steep slopes that can only be hand farmed. The region’s farms remain mostly family-owned and have been passed down for generations. Varieties of tea grown by a family-owned farm in Wazuka for 350 years over 7 generations will be served at the event.
A collection of contemporary suzuri, the result of a separate project to support the continuing production of traditional Japanese ink-stones and a corresponding interest in calligraphy will be available to view during the evening. Before devastation by the tsunami, the ink-stone industry of Ogatsu in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture once accounted for 90% of the production of suzuri, yet the cultural significance of the ink-stone is quickly becoming overlooked and forgotten in modern Japan.