Extinct Revelry of the Highest Class: Sumiya

Unassuming in its grandness from the outside: Sumiya.


The imagination cannot possibly do justice to the reality of what these walls must have seen.  And these walls!  No where is room after room so intricately designed to meet a mood, all under the same roof.  (And you know, since you are reading this blog, that these walls are made of the gifts of the earth. Conjuring the crafters in the mind invokes salivation. Abalone inlay on dark grey clay… bright blues and reds all but gone from the region now, but putty in the masters’ hands then.)  Wait, abalone inlay?  Why, yes, 270 year-old abalone inlay in a fine clay wall, my dear.  Your great grandmother wasn’t even born yet.



Bless the Bucket

This roof — removed from its original location because the Shogun wanted debauchery moved to another quarter of Kyoto back in 1641 — has seen two additions in its near-400 year lifespan.  To think, it may have been crushed to dust a few decades ago were it not for a large bath-bucket, enjoyed by Saigo Takamori, the last Samurai.  Thanks to the bath-bucket’s history, the whole property was spared from being demolished to accommodate the incoming JR train line.


The second floor bans tourist cameras, quite possibly because it is well nigh holy in its creation.  Thank goodness for publications with clout to capture the divine.  I for one am not too proud to show you photos of online photographs, some of which themselves are photographs of books.  This is the power that Sumiya exerts over us.


The first floor also contains magnificence at every view:


The history here quickens the heart of the fanciful.  The atmosphere is exquisite.  Glorious painter and poet Yosa Buson was a patron, as was rebel extraordinaire Sakamoto Ryoma.  The greatest acclaimed performers of their time, the tayu (mighty skilled geisha), entertained un-armed samurai from every clan and their mothers, such as the international star, genius Yachiyo Tayu.  A peace zone, swords were left at the door, please.  (Ahem Francheska, I just had to.) Strictly for the pleasure of the senses, burning enough candles to light up the night, food and sake flowed from the grand kitchen at this ageya, the place to lift you up.

You must visit.  Make reservations to tour the second floor, or you’ll be sorry.  And, pray, take me with you to translate.




3 thoughts on “Extinct Revelry of the Highest Class: Sumiya

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