The art of Sho-o’s hammer

by guy keulemans on December 16, 2015

Sho-o was once going to a Cha-no-yu with Rikyu when he caught sight of a flower vase with two handles in a curio shop. He thought he would go in and buy it on his way back and did so only to find that Rikyu had forestalled him. Being invited to a Tea some while after by Rikyu it occurred to him that this vase would be used, and so it turned out, for there it stood in the Tokonoma, but it had one of its handles broken off. ‘Ah,’ he said ‘then I shall have no need of the hammer I brought in my sleeve to knock it off, for I could not bear the idea of it being used with both.’

– from Tsutsui, ‘The role of anecdotes in the transmission of tea traditions’, pp. 44–5., cited in Tim Cross’ Ideologies of Japanese Tea, p. 238.

I wish I could take a hammer to some of that Ikea/replica/mass-market furniture I see in my friend’s homes. Not that its the same thing.

Its amazing to imagine a culture where Sho-o’s intent might be acceptable. Perhaps we need to embrace damage as an aesthetic expression to better value our possessions?

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