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The art of tea at the Nezu

The Gazebo
The Gazebo

The Nezu Institute of Fine Arts occupies 21,627 square meters of prime real estate in tony Minami-Aoyama. Founded in 1940 by Kaichiro Nezu, Sr., the Institute is world-renowned for the breadth of its collections: Buddhist and Shinto paintings, calligraphy, textiles and ceramics as well as lacquer, metal and wood objects, ancient Chinese bronzes and more.

Nezu had a particular interest in the tea ceremony, incongruously born of a 1909 trip to America, and became an avid collector of utensils and tea-related artworks, including Japanese iron kettles and Korean tea bowls from the Yi Dynasty.

The Nezu hosts a special exhibition through August 6, "Tea Utensils for Summer Tea Gatherings." Among the pieces on display are "Snow-White Herons in Lotus Pond," an ink-on-paper hanging scroll from the Muromachi Period and an Edo-period "Tea Bowl with Autumn Grass Design" by Nonomura Ninsei.



The grounds of the Institute are beautiful, as much a work of art as the collections themselves. Stone steps and paths wend their way beneath a canopy of quiet green, sculpted and manicured but with a hint of the wild, speckled with statuary and shuttered tea houses. The green is interrupted by stone steps, a sheltered wooden shrine, a narrow wooden bridge that spans over a pond the deep green color of matcha tea.

Most of the grounds' trails end at the Gazebo, a peaceful and spectacularly quiet cafE not even the sounds of mid-June's torrential downpours intrude. Relax with a matcha set (pictured left, JY800), a steaming cup of tea served with a seasonal sweet. The matcha arrived a bit too quickly (where's the ceremony?) and the sweet looked like nothing if not Jello jewelry, but both, in fact, were delicious. The absence of noise, music, smoke and even human voices make this the perfect little spot to finish your novel, or pen a few haiku.

Nezu Institute of Fine Arts
Open 9:30am-4:30pm Tue-Sun. 6-5-1 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku (03-3400-2536).
Admission: general JY1000, students JY700. Gazebo open 11am-4:30pm Tue-Sun. Menu in English. No smoking allowed.
Nearest stn: Omotesando, exit A5, five-min walk. See www.nezu-muse.or.jp

Aeve Baldwin


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