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Uji tea ordering journal
Late Edo era
Writer: Moritsune Hasekura

 In the Edo era, each year, many people journeyed from Edo (Tokyo) Castle to Uji in Kyoto, famous for its cultivation of tea leaves, in order to fill up tea urns with the first leaves of the season and bring them back for the shogun’s household. This was called “Ujisaichashi” meaning “The journey to carry tea”. These tea bearers were held in the highest regard. Even daimyo (a generic term referring to the powerful territorial lords in premodern Japan who ruled most of the country from their vast, hereditary land holdings) had to give way when they passed these tea bearers on the road. In order to avoid any problems on the journey, at the start of each summer, even though farmers were very busy, they were forced to improve the road and those who failed to obey or take the job seriously were severely punished. Therefore preparations for the trip were extremely troublesome for everyone and at the same time it was not easy for the tea bearers. The tea urn the shogun would use was deified as a sacred object and treated with the greatest of care.

 This book is a copy of “Uji Aobyoushi Zui”, originally written by Moritsune Hasekura in June of the 7th year of Bunka (1810). He was a tea specialist sent to Uji as one of the tea bearers. The introduction states, “This book may be helpful for beginning tea bearers” and therefore Moritsune intended it to be a manual for making “The journey to carry tea”. The trip from Edo Castle to Uji and back including choosing the tea, filling the urns and stopping by Chotei and Kunouzan Toshogu to present some as a gift, took about one month. The order of the entire process and points of caution are documented in detail with 18 color illustrations.

 Most other documents describe the journey only in terms of the terrible nuisance it caused for the people who lived along the road and those who had to make way but this extremely valuable book focuses on the journey to carry tea from a different point of view, that of the tea bearer’s side.