Tea and Politics in Japan’s Age of Unification

Japan’s elite culture of tea, known as chanoyu, played a key role in the transition of Japan’s divided politics and civil wars of the late 16th century into a unified government in 1603.

The civil wars intensified when three warrior hegemons successively and successfully conquered rebellious provinces, forged alliances to strengthen their collective militaries, and strove to unify what had been a profoundly divided polity for almost a century. The end result was the establishment of what would be the last samurai government in Japanese history—the Tokugawa shogunate—which ruled from 1603 to 1868. This lecture by Dr. Morgan Pitelka, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, explores tea’s role during this period by illuminating the interplay between sociability, patronage, and the pleasures of the tea house.

This is the Genshitsu Sen Annual Tea Lecture.