Let me introduce one of the best seeing spots in Shiga Japan if you are either art, architecture or tea ceremony lovers. It’s Sagawa Museum located by the Japan biggest lake, Biwa lake which opened in 1998. It’s an award-winning museum that owns a tea house for tea ceremony. The design of the tea house is very different from what the traditional tea ceremony room, in fact, most of the parts of the tea house are built underground. No wonder why it is so unique since the tea house was designed and supervised by one of the most famous Japanese potter, Raku Kichizaemon XV from the Raku family.
Raku-family is a potter family which has a history over 450 years and has been one of 10 special craftsmen for the Sen family. The Sen family is a family who represents the Japanese tea ceremony, consisting of 3 families, Urasenke, Omotesenke, and Mushakōjisenke. All the families derived from the founder of Chanoyu (tea ceremony) Sen-no-Rikyū and are related to the long history of Japanese traditional tea ceremony.
Back to the Raku family, these ceramics the family makes are called Raku ware (Raku Yaki), they are very popular in Japan and used often among tea ceremony lovers all over the world.
The architecture of the museum is very modern and elegant, built in the water garden, as if the museum itself is floating on the water. Sagawa museum has achieved a lot of awards for its architecture.
The tea house
And there is a tea room in the museum, where tea ceremony lovers would start dancing with excitement once they find out who the designer is.
The tea house is designed and supervised by the 15th generation Raku Kichizaemon ( now called JIKINYU since he handed over his title to the present Raku Kichizaemon), located in the pavilion of Raku Kichizaemon in the museum. The concept of the pavilion is shu-ha-ri (守破離), shu means following, ha means breaking and ri means separation. This concept shows his attitude towards his ceramic artworks. A long historical tradition is a thing that has to be protected and followed but at the same time, it needs to be broke out and not to be stuck with for no reason.
The tea house is exactly following the concept. The moment you step in the tea house you will see that the tea house is totally different from what a usual tea room is.
The tea house is consisted of
Except for its Hiroma ( a spacious tatami-room for tea ceremony ), all the parts are built underwater. The first unusual part of this tea house is the entrance. As if it’s a hidden secret base, you are taking an elevator to the underground to go into the teahouse.
Ro is a hallway to the Yoritsuki( the first room where invited guests gather ) and from the Yoritsuki to Mizuroji ( an open-field using water). The hallway is made of woods which was used as a railway sleeper in Australia. Since the hallway and the Yoritsuki are underground and only have little lightings, it’s very dark and you feel like you are in a cave.
Mizuroji part is also very unique. After walking out of the dark hallway, you feel very refreshing to get to see the sunlight at the Mizuroji although basically you are still standing under the water. Mizuroji is a pool made of concrete, built at the same level as the water garden. You are inside the pool and can see the water from the garden running down the concrete wall of the pool. The floor of where you stand as seeing the wall is made of wide black stones imported from Zimbabwe.
Even at the Hiroma( a spacious tatami-room for tea ceremony), people sit on the tatami floor on the same level as the water garden. Sittin on the tatami floor and just looking at the water garden in blissful silence, you feel like the space surrounding you is a very ZEN-like. It provides calmness and peacefulness. You would think of 30min of the tour is way too short to fully enjoy the tea house.
Unfortunately, taking photos of the inside of the tea house is not allowed, therefore, you get a little book of picture collection of the tea house after the house-tour.
How can I see the tea house?
To go inside the tea house, you need to join a tour. You need to pay 1,000JPY besides a museum admission. The tour is held every Thu.Fri.Sat.Sun at 10:00・11:00・13:00・14:00・15:00. Booking in advance is recommended by a call at 077-585-7806 (9:30～17:00) since the tour capacity is limited.
The tour comes with a curator explanation and the photo book.
About tea ceremony gatherings
A tea ceremony gathering, “Seiro Tea Party / Kanro Tea Party” has been held irregularly at the tea house. It comes with a tea ceremony lunch box called Tensin and light matcha (Usucha) and dense matcha (Koicha). Even people who have not learned a tea ceremony are welcomed. You can drink matcha with Raku tea bowls. The participation fee is starting at 10,000JPY.
Access to the museum
Please refer to the official transport guide from HERE.
2891 Kitagawa, Mizuho-Cho,
Let’s visit Sagawa museum and immerse yourself in the gems of Japanese arts. Also, on the way to the museum, you can enjoy the beautiful landscape of Shiga prefecture and Japan’s biggest lake, Biwa lake.