Peter Sidell

Hatakeyama Museum of Fine Art

Dedicated to the art of tea ceremony

Peter Sidell
Peter Sidell   - 2 min read

Tea ceremony is an important part of traditional Japanese culture, so it's no surprise to find a museum dedicated especially to it. In a quiet residential neighbourhood a few minutes' walk from Shirokanedai or Takanawadai subway stations, the Hatakeyama Museum was built to display the collection of utensils, ceramics and artworks belonging to Issey Hatakeyama, a scholar of tea ceremony and collector of art from Japan, China and Korea. These are things of beauty in their own right, so you don't have to be specially interested in tea ceremony to enjoy a visit here.

As you walk in, you're greeted by a life-sized statue of Hatakeyama carved from a single piece of wood, sitting calmly at the bottom of the stairs up to the single exhibition room. The atmosphere here is very peaceful, with golden swirls on the ceiling, and shadows of the trees outside playing on the paper screens that cover the windows.

At one end there's a replica of a tea ceremony pavilion; a raised area with a tatami-mat floor leads to a small room by a miniature garden, complete with dripping bamboo water-chute. For ¥500 you can enjoy tea and snacks here, served in traditional style by one of the museum attendants.

There are four different exhibitions a year; when I visited, I saw a mix of different objects and artworks, including paintings from the Rimpa school of Japanese art. There were ceramic teacups and containers with delicately painted designs such as plum-blossoms and wisteria, along with elegantly-crafted wooden tea-scoops and cases. I also enjoyed the decorative hanging scrolls and folding screens, particularly one large screen painted with a profusion of different flowers, and two smaller screens with vividly coloured seasonal landscapes, bright pink cherry-blossoms, deep orange autumn leaves.

The museum is set in a small but restful garden, with plenty of trees and flowers, stern-looking busts which I imagine are of the museum's founders or supporters, and a couple of stone lanterns and statues. I had a stroll round here both before and after I saw the exhibition, relaxing my mind and enjoying the tranquility, a complete break from the surrounding big, busy city.

Peter Sidell

Peter Sidell @peter.sidell

I came to Japan from Manchester, England in 2003, and have travelled a lot since then, around Japan and in Asia. When I'm not working, I write satire and perform stand-up comedy in and around Tokyo. Check YouTube for a taste.