Imagine yourself nearly floating in the sky, surrounded by green trees and fluffy clouds. Now you sip some green tea and feel completely at peace. Does this sound too good to be true? It isn’t, because now you can actually experience this in Kyoto.
At the Blue Dragon Hall of Shorenin Temple, artist Tokujin Yoshioka has designed a clear glass teahouse sitting amongst the trees of Higashiyama, one of the city’s famous mountains.
The art installation, dubbed “Glass Teahouse-Kouan,” was first thought up by Yoshioka back in 2002. It wasn’t until 2011 at the Venice Biennale international art show, though, that he announced the design, bringing along a model version of his vision. It took another few years to get permission and to finish the piece, which is now sitting grandly next to age-old camphor trees.
The teahouse is a one-year long art piece dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the sister city exchange between Kyoto and Florence, Italy. Yoshioka chose to create this clear building in an attempt to allow people to see and feel the energy of nature and its deep connection to Japanese culture.
While participating in the tradition of tea ceremony in the small indoor space, you are still close to the heart and sights of nature, giving a sense of limitlessness. This unification between microcosm and macrocosm is exactly what the artist was trying to achieve.
▼ The glass teahouse is the first of its kind.
Some would argue that the inorganic glass would taint the experience or bring about a cold, hard sensation. However, due to the perfect transparency of the glass, the room is flooded with natural light, bringing a warmth and ease to the structure.
The wooden stage that the Glass Teahouse elegantly sits upon is the look-out platform of the newly relocated and reconstructed Seiryuden (Blue Dragon Hall) on the Shogunzuka mound at the foot of Higashiyama. The hall, part of Shorenin Temple, is a converted martial arts dojo, originally built during the Taisho era (early 1900s) and was re-opened after its restoration in October 2014.
▼ The night view from the new observation deck at Seiryuden.
The observation deck stands 220 meters above ground level, is five times bigger than that of nearby Kiyomizu Temple and has an unobstructed view of the city below, making it a new popular destination for tourists and locals alike.
The Shogunzuka mound and the observation platform at Seiryuden would be enough to get us up there, but now with the addition of “Glass Teahouse-Kouan,” our mouths are watering with excitement and thirst for green tea.
The hall and look-out platform are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a 500-yen (US$4) entry fee for adults. The “Glass Teahouse-Kouan,” however, will only be there for one year, from April 9, 2015 to April 2016.
While spring will most likely be the most popular time to visit, the crystal clear teahouse will be, without a doubt, a great place to experience all of Japan’s beautiful seasons.