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It is said that one of the best ways to become a person of culture is to study the Japanese tea ceremony, where nothing is permitted to be rushed and there are no short cuts to accomplishment.

Herbert Plutschow’s “rediscovery” of the great tea master, Sen-no-Rikyu (1522-91), explores the complex relationship between politics and the arts during the final years of the Warring States era. The author is less interested in Rikyu’s achievements and legacy than why his suicide was the inevitable result of the collision of art, politics and ritual. In an object lesson on not mixing politics and aesthetics, Rikyu’s relations with the generalissimo Toyotomi Hideyoshi would prove disastrous. An admirer of Rikyu, Hideyoshi exploited the locations of teahouses as venues for secret political meetings, something that must have deeply unsettled the tea master.

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