26 September 2023

The Wisdom of Tea

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

By Noriko Morishita, Allen & Unwin, $24.99.

A deep connection to the Japanese tea ceremony is obvious for journalist and essayist Noriko Morishita. In fact, we learn about life lessons as we join her at the very beginning of her journey, describing her gradual discovery of freedom and insight within the very rules that once seemed so constricting.

Looking back across her life, Noriko illuminates the real teachings of the Way of Tea: to live absolutely in the moment, to notice and delight in the smallest of details, to embrace the vital skills of patience and perseverance, and to allow yourself to be.

We also gain some clarity. In this world, there are things that we understand immediately and things that take time to comprehend. Once is enough for the former type of experience, but things in the latter category reveal themselves to us only gradually, undergoing a slow metamorphosis over multiple encounters. Each time we understand a little more, we realise we had only been seeing a tiny fragment of the whole. Tea is exactly like that, as Noriko explains.

It’s been an obsession. Noriko begun studying the traditional art in 1977 when she was 20 years old and with her cousin, Michiko, dutifully went off to the house of a family acquaintance for an introductory lesson.

The Wisdom of Tea is an interesting work of non-fiction, a condensation of the information derived from valuable experience. It was what Noriko learned through many seasons, spanning girlhood to adulthood. It’s a perceptive and motivating book that reveals the lasting relevance of an ancient ceremony.

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