The Tea Master and the Samurai – a Japanese folktale

Once there was a famous Japanese tea master called Sen no Rikyu. Rikyu was a spiritual man who believed in simplicity and the beauty of nature. When he performed the tea ceremony he would carefully choose beautiful but simple pots and bowls.

One day a warlord called Hideyoshi was riding past Rikyu’s house when he noticed the teamaster’s beautiful garden, full of the most wonderful flowers – morning glory flowers. Hideyoshi was so impressed with the garden that he stopped and asked Rikyu to hold a tea ceremony for him there the next day. The tea master was a very different man from the rich and powerful soldier who had been fighting all his life. He was thoughtful and quiet but despite this he reluctantly agreed to perform the ceremony.

When Hideyoshi arrived the next day as they’d agreed, he was shocked to see that Rikyu had cut down all the flowers in the garden. Not one flower was left. The warlord was furious and stormed into the tea house to confront Rikyu but was stopped in his tracks by the sight of the teamaster calmly waiting to make tea for the warlord.

Behind Rikyu there was a simple brown pot and in the pot was one absolutely perfect morning glory flower. When Hideyoshi saw it, he immediately understood why Rikyu had cut down the flowers in the garden.


About The Henry Brothers

We are English teachers involved in ELT publishing in Turkey, and also touring the country giving workshops and presentations to English teachers, mainly on the use of poetry, storytelling and other lively activities in the classroom. We can be contacted by e-mail to or
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6 Responses to The Tea Master and the Samurai – a Japanese folktale

  1. cassie says:

    realy why don’t you add why?

  2. cassaundra justine says:

    he does what to reallise that the tea cerimony has to do with the flowers being cut off

  3. ciel phantomhive says:

    it was a good story it got me interested and makes me wonder of what will happen next

  4. Xiang says:

    if your paying attention you know why they are all brought down.
    The teamster is a perfectionist. Only one of his flowers in that garden was perfect for the occasion, the warlord understood this when he found only the one in the house.

    that having been said have you herd the teamster the thief and the samurai?
    similar perfectionist moral but radically different story.

  5. Maura says:

    This sounds like a koan: the samurai was suddenly enlightened to the teaching of the tea master and understood immediately about form and emptiness, about how nothing remains the same but is always changing, and the things we value will surely pass: the beauty of flowers, of tea, of moods, of the things one fights for. Nonetheless, or perhaps precisely because of this, the things we have are very precious. There is a famous story of Buddha, showing a single flower to his followers, and only one of them understood its meaning, and smiled.

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