Noh and tea: celebrating heritage @ Garyu Sanso

Last December the 120-year-old retreat was brought to life with sublime performances

Garyu Sanso was a place conceived to entertain decaying arts in a rapidly evolving Japan. But Kouchi Torajiro, its creator, died before having the opportunity to host his enlightened friends. 

More than a century afterwards, and thanks to the support of the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs, the Garyu Villa could -for the first time- be experienced the way it was intended to. 

In a cold morning of December 2021, a group of 10 selected guests could be seen approaching the sukiya tea pavilions of the Garyu Sanso from the Hiji River watercourse.

Upon arrival, they were escorted into the Furoan pavilion, where green tea was served. In a timely manner, a master confectioner penetrated the alcove and proceeded to prepare Japanese sweets in front of the audience.

A meticulous display of tea utensils crafted by the ‘ten traditional artisan families of Kyoto’ senke jisshoku invested the floorboards of the tokonoma, adding delicate notes of refinement to the atmosphere.  

After a sumptuous meal service, the space of the Garyu-in pavilion was filled with the low voices of the chorus -jiutai- and the Noh performance took hold of the Isshinoma room. 12 clay vases, semi-buried underneath its tatami floor, enhanced the acoustics and elevated the subtle perfomances of musicians -hayashi- and dancers -shite-.  

Albeit for a very limited, the spirits embedded in Japanese traditional arts were brought to life and seized this elaborate tea compound, conceived by Kouchi Torajiro more than 120 years ago. 

Conceivably they enjoyed it as much as the attendees to this extraordinary event did. 


diego fernandez

Architecture and Culture Research Dep. Director | Kita Management