Indeed Cha-no-yu may by considered an epitome of Japanese civilization, for it is a well-blended mixture of elements drawn from the two most ancient cultures of the East eclectically acquired by extremaly able and critical minds capable of discerning exactly how they could best use it for the convenience and aducation of their people.
And very completely were the Tea Masters justified of their creation, for it has kept the national taste more sensitive and healthy and potent than that of perhaps any other country, and this I submit is now being demostrated by what is called “Modernism” in the art, architecture and interior decoration of Europe.
This movement may be called Modern only in Europe, for it appears to a great extent to be, where it is not influenced by machinery of some kind, a copying of the national outlook and taste of Japan in these spheres, for though it may only lately have dawned on continental artists and decorators that a house is a machine to live in and from which all superfluous and irritating ornaments should be banished, the contact between this part of Europe and Japan has been too close of late to allow of the discovery being entirely an independent one.
The necessity for strict economy in life and the lack of means for ostentation which post-war conditions have brought about,combined with the impulse to simplicity inspired by militarism, may supply the reason for the departure from previous traditional standards.
These conditions were also responsible for a similar feeling in Japan of the sixteenth century, for this too was the end of an epoch of exhausting civil wars.
To this extent simplicity in both East and West may spring from the same cause,but there is so much in the details¹ of this Modernism that is indentical with what has long been characteristic of Japanese idiosyncrasy that it might not unsuitably be described as the Rikyû style, for Sen Rikyû perhaps did more than any other artist to stimulate and standardize that sort of architecture and interior decoration or lack of it, and to expound the creed on which it is based, as may be seen by a perusal of the things that he said and occupied his life in doing.
There you have it; Rikyû single-handledly created Modernism in Muromachi Japan.
He goes on with more preposterous ideas like how Teaism is the major force behind the universal good taste in Japanese society, and how such a feat could only be achieved on a non-democratic, military, top-down state pruning the lazy æsthetics of the populace; and how Italy with its classical background and current (1933) Tokugawa-style government could be in the position of developing the same thing. I’m surprised that a Ceremonia del Caffè didn’t arise under Mussolini.
Recommended: A.L. Sadler’s The Japanese Tea Ceremony: Cha-No-Yu.