The teahouse was developed in late sixteenth-century Japan by Sen-no-Rikyu, a Zen Buddhist monk who was an advisor to the Shogun Hideyoshi. A small building with a low doorway, modeled on a peasant’s hut, the teahouse nevertheless commanded great respect. Powerful Samurai willingly set aside their sword and trappings of power; to discuss art and poetry while sipping strong green tea from crudely finished rice bowls. Elaborate social rituals evolved, emphasizing the ancient Japanese art form of wabi-sabi, which honors all things old, weathered, and worn. By perceiving the beauty of impermanence and imperfection, wabi-sabi discovers grace in nature and in simple utilitarian artifacts.
Shinto shrines are built to protect an object inhabited by a spirit. The shrine at Ise Naiku was founded in the late 3rd century AD, dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu O-mi-kami. The three sacred treasures at Ise are a jewel symbolizing knowledge, a sword symbolizing authority, and a mirror whose purity of reflection symbolizes justice. The Emperor is custodian of the sacred mirror of Ise.
Every twenty years, since the 7th century, Shinto priests perform a nighttime ritual during which the treasures are moved. The older building is then dismantled, conserving the beams, now considered sacred, for use in other Shinto shrines.