-from Chapter 12
Hideyoshi made a strangled noise, words stifled by his rage. . . . [He] flew down from the dais, the toes of his gold brocade socks flashing over ten green grass mats in a second. Soji’s body was kicked from the corridor like a ball, hitting the stepping stone and rolling into the garden. . . . At the time, Rikyu was still in the tearoom, and knew nothing about it. On his way to see Hideyoshi, to inform him that the tea gathering had concluded successfully, Omura Yuki intercepted him and whispered urgently in his ear. But by that time, Soji’s head was already separated from his torso, lying in the corner of the stone wall.
Nogami Yaeko’s compelling novel of political intrigue in sixteenth-century Japan depicts the intertwined lives of two iconic historical figures. Toyotomi Hideyoshi rose through the ranks from a common foot soldier to become the military ruler of Japan but struggled to win respect among the cultured nobility. He found both a friend and an invaluable political advisor in Sen no Rikyu, Japan’s most respected tea master. A wealthy merchant in his own right, Rikyu’s talent for tea ceremony propelled him into the ruler’s court. Deftly balancing Hideyoshi’s love of ostentatious display with the ideals of simplicity and rusticity embodied in the way of tea, Rikyu commands respect from loyal students and court nobles alike.
As the story opens, the two men are several years into their friendship, and tensions have begun to build. Hideyoshi pursues his quest to unify Japan, and his ego grows with every victory. Rikyu watches his friends exiled and pardoned according to Hideyoshi’s whims and longs for freedom from the excess and intrigue of court life. Nogami explores the dynamic politics of conquest, the delicate connections of the human soul, and the power of speech and silence in her elegant psychological portrait of two powerful men.
Mariko Nishi LaFleur is a Japanese native who has been teaching tea ceremony in Japan and the United states for more than thirty-five years. She has a degree in Anthropology from Bryn Mawr College. Her articles and translations has been published in the Japanese Society for the Study of Chanoyu journal and the Chanoyu Quarterly and she has participated in educational films on tea ceremony for the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Aiya Tea Company in Japan. She was trained at Urasenke tea school headquarters in Kyoto, where she has taught for many years. She has also taught classes in tea ceremony, Japanese culture, and Japanese language at the University of Pennsylvania and other institutions.
Morgan Beard has been a professional writer and editor for more than twenty years. She has a degree in religion and communication from LaSalle University and an advanced teaching certification (jun-kyojyu) from the Urasenke Tea School. She has been active in teaching and promoting tea culture throughout the Philadelphia area for more than twenty years and currently serves as the chief of administration for the Philadelphia chapter of the Urasenke Tankokai Association.