Chado Research Center Galleries

2018 Special Autumn Exhibition
Illustrated Handscrolls of the Saké vs. Rice Debate:
Wining and Dining in Medieval Japan

The exhibition poster

October 6 (Sat) − December 4 (Tue), 2018
Term I: October 6 (Sat) −November 4 (Sun)
Term II: November 6 (Tue) – December 4 (Tue)

The Shuhanron emaki, or "Illustrated Handscrolls of the Saké vs. Rice Debate," relate the story of three men's long-winded argumentation in favor of saké, rice, or saké and rice in good balance, and includes illustrations of how they each prefer to entertain guests. The three men are Miki no kami ason Nagamochi, or "Courtier Nagamochi, Director of the Saké-Brewing Office"; Iimuro ritsushi Kohan, or "Rice Vestibule Precept Master Kohan"; and Chuzaemon no taifu Nakahara no Nakanari, or "Eminent Middle Minister, Nakahara Nakanari".
         This illustrated story, with its lively depictions of people enjoying food and drink, and people preparing the foods and drinks, was formulated in the Muromachi period, and all the way to the end of the Edo period, many copies were produced. They have been recognized as good resources for understanding medieval customs, and recently they are attracting attention as invaluable resources for understanding Japan's food culture. Nonetheless, the story behind the images is not widely known.
         Japan's medieval period, when the illustrated handscrolls first appeared, is just when tea-drinking started to gain popularity. In modern-day formal tea functions (chaji), important roles are played not only by tea, but also by rice and saké. The banquet depictions in the illustrated handscrolls include many elements in common with modern-day formal tea functions, and it may be that the medieval banquet style influenced their development.
         This is the first time for an exhibition to be mounted on the theme of the Shuhanron emaki. Eight handscrolls from collections within Japan are being exhibited, and all the scenes are explained. In addition, on display are examples of the kinds of saké containers and such items seen in the handscrolls. The exhibition offers visitors a chance to come in touch with wining and dining customs in medieval Japan, and see how they relate to the formal chanoyu functions with which we today are familiar.


Shuhanron emaki section 1 detail, introducing the three protagonists.
Chado Research Center collection.
Shuhanron emaki section 3 detail, showing the dining style preference of Kohan,
whose predilection is for rice.
Chado Research Center collection.
Section 1 detail.
Milling tea.
Section 3 detail.
Stoking the fire to make tea.
Hours: 9:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.
Closing time for entry and tea service: 4:00 P.M.
Days closed: Every Monday except for October 8 and November 19 (National Holiday)
                    Also closed on Tuesday October 9
Admission fee: Regular: JPY1000. University students, JPY600. Jr. and Sr. High students, JPY350.
                         Children below Jr. High, and students of membership schools, free.
                         The admission ticket comes with a complimentary ticket for tea service.