About monk Eisai(Founder of Japanese Tea)

Eisai is famous as the founder of Japanese tea. He is said to have written the first book on tea in Japan, called “Café Yosoki,” and to have brought back tea seeds from China, making him the founder of Japanese tea.

He was born in Okayama in 1141 at the end of the Heian period (794-1185), and is said to have read Buddhist scriptures at the age of eight, and to have been ordained at the age of 14 at Enryakuji Temple on Mt.

He is said to have read Buddhist scriptures at the age of eight and to have been ordained at the Enryakuji temple on Mt.
The first time, when he was 28 years old (1168), he went to the Southern Song Dynasty to study in order to rebuild the Tendai sect, which at that time had become a skeleton and a tool for aristocratic political disputes. At that time, the Taira no Kiyomori (the Heike) was at the height of its power in Japan, and Eisai went to the Southern Song Dynasty under the patronage and expectation of the Heike.
There is no record of Eisai bringing back any tea from his first trip to China. There is no record that he brought back tea on his first trip to China, perhaps he was too busy studying Buddhism at that time.
After returning to Japan, he was involved in the reconstruction of a temple in his hometown of Okayama (Bizen Kanayama Temple) and the founding of Fukuoka’s Senganji Temple.

The second time he went to China was 19 years after the first, when he was 47 years old (1187).
The second trip to China was in 1187, 19 years after the first, when he was 47 years old, and he was on his way to India via China (Southern Song Dynasty). However, China (Southern Song Dynasty) at that time was divided into Jin, Liao and other countries in addition to Southern Song Dynasty, and his wish could not be fulfilled because the road to India was occupied by those countries. Realizing that he could not go to India, Eisai decided to return to Japan and boarded a ship, but the weather was not favorable and he was unable to return home. (I heard he was blown back by the wind.)
He then said, “I have not yet completed my visit to Japan. The wind blew me back because I still have unfinished business,” he thought, and set out again for the Wannian Temple on Mount Tientai in Zhejiang Province.
It was here that I met and studied under a monk named Kian Echang of the Rinzai sect. After meeting with Kian Echang, Eisai began his training in the Rinzai school of Zen.

Four years after his second visit to the Sung, in 1191, Eiseis returned to Japan.
Upon his return to Japan, Fei’an Kailchang told Eishi, “Return to your country, spread the teachings of Rinzai, and pass on the correct teachings to as many people as possible. He said. He then gave Eiseis all the tools he needed.

Incidentally, the kesa that Eisai received at that time still remains at the Kinzanji Temple in Okayama (a temple that was reconstructed after Eisai’s first return to Japan). (It was opened to the public in August 2020.)

Rare treasures…valuable items used by Eisai are on display [Okayama City, Okayama] (OHK Okayama Broadcasting)

In August 1191, Eisai returned to Ashiura (present-day Furue Bay) on Hirado Island (Hirado City, Nagasaki Prefecture). In August 1191, Eisai returned to Ashinoura (present-day Furue Bay) on Hirado Island (Hirado City, Nagasaki Prefecture), where he opened a Zen hermitage called Fushun-an. On August 8, he gathered dozens of local fishermen and held a Zen meditation, which is said to have been the beginning of Zen in Japan.
At this time, he also “sowed tea seeds in the mountains behind Fuchunan and taught the methods of tea making and coffee (powdered green tea),” and the tea garden is called Fuchunen.

It is said that the origin of naming the Zen temple “Fuchun-an” and the tea garden “Fuchun-en” is a reference to the Fuchun River in Zhejiang Province.
In the same year (1191, 2nd year of Kenkyu era), there is a record of Eisai planting tea seeds in the middle of Sefuri Mountain. Incidentally, this book is a summary of the history and etiquette of tea, and was written by Ko Yugai, a tea master.

At that time, Mount Sefuri (Reisenji Temple) was a holy place for Tendai esoteric mountain Buddhism, and during the Heian and Kamakura periods, it was a prosperous ascetic mountain called Sefuri Senbo. It is said to have attracted the faith of people traveling to China, and many monks, including Kukai and Saicho, as well as Eisai, prayed for safe voyages. However, Reisenji Temple fell into disrepair during the Warring States Period, and today the ruins of Reisenji Temple remain in Yoshinogari Town, Saga Prefecture.

The tea garden at Tsugao Kozanji Temple (famous for its bird and animal caricatures), generally known as the oldest tea garden in Japan, is said to have been planted by Myoe Shonin, who received tea seeds from Eisai.

After returning to Japan, Eisai built Kan’ouji Temple (Izumizu City, Kagoshima Prefecture: 1194) and Seifukuji Temple (Hakata City, Fukuoka Prefecture: 1195) to spread Zen, but was ostracized by Enryakuji Temple and Kofukuji Temple, and was ordered by the Emperor to suspend Zen Buddhism.

At that time, the Kamakura Shogunate had just begun in Japan, and Todaiji Temple, which had been burned down by Taira no Kiyomori and others, was being reconstructed. At the same time, the founders of the so-called Kamakura New Buddhism (Jodo Shinshu, Jodo Shinshu, Nichiren Shinshu, Rinzai Shinshu, and Soto Shinshu), which are widely known even today, were active. In other words, it was a time of religious reform in Japan, when old and new Buddhism clashed with each other.

Against this backdrop, Eisai wrote his main work, “Kosen Gokoku-ron” in 1198, in which he argued that Zen did not negate the existing sects but was important for the revival of Buddhism. Feeling the limits of his missionary work in Kyoto, he moved to Kamakura to seek the patronage of the shogunate.

In 1202, he built Kenninji Temple in Kyoto. Today, Kenninji is the head temple of the Rinzai sect of Buddhism, but at the time of its construction, it was a temple where the three sects of Zen, Tendai, and Shingon were combined. In 1206, Eisai was appointed as the grand advisor (general manager) of Todaiji Temple.

In 1211, he wrote the first book on tea in Japan, “Tea and Health”. This was 20 years after Eisai brought back tea seeds from China at the age of 71. The book is divided into two volumes: the first volume is about tea (Camellia sinensis), and the second volume is about tea made from mulberry leaves.

The upper volume is about tea (Camellia sinensis) and the lower volume is about mulberry leaf tea.

As soon as it is plucked in the morning, it should be steamed and roasted immediately. If you are a lazy person, you will not be able to do this work. He lays paper on the roasting rack and roasts the tea in a way that prevents the paper from burning. The tea is roasted neither slowly nor rapidly, but all through the night without sleep, and it is immediately put into a fine jar, and the mouth is sealed tightly with a bamboo leaf.

It says, “Steam it and roast it. In other words, it tells us how to make tencha, the raw material for matcha.

In 1215, four years after he wrote the book, Eisai died at the age of 75. He spent 75 years of his life burning with passion for the cause of Buddhism.

In his “Memoirs of a Buddhist Tea Master,” Eisai stressed the importance of tea as a medicine for all diseases.
In the Kamakura period, when Eisai lived, the average life expectancy was 24 years old. In an age when the average life expectancy of even the aristocracy was 40 to 50 years old, Eisai’s life expectancy was astonishingly long.

His longevity must have been due to his passionate life, drinking tea.
I would like to accomplish something that I can be passionate about for the rest of my life, just like Rongxi. With a cup of tea in hand.