“Esoteric” is a word you don’t get much chance to use when talking about anime these days. But boy, it could have been invented for Hyouge Mono. I recognize even when watching it that I’m part of a very small subset of people who’d be interested in it – small even in Japan, never mind outside it. I even hear the voices of friends I know in my head, asking in disbelief why I’m watching it. But I admire the audacity of it – and the audacity that it must have taken to try and get an adaptation like this funded in the first place.
Audacity is a term that could certainly be applied to Hideyoshi, and it helps explain why he decked out his new mansion lavishly in gold. But in his defense, he had to be audacious – he was a commoner rising to the top in a world where commoners never rose to the top. It simply didn’t happen. Hideyoshi’s audacity is a major theme in Hyouge Mono (his misguided dream of invading Korea and China was a product of it), and very specifically of this episode.
The mansions are going up hot and heavy all over the Jurakudai, with the various daimyou trying to impress the world and stamp their place as aesthetes, and some of the results are pretty surprising. Oda Nobunaga’s brother Nagamasu – one of the daimyou who’d converted to Christianity – has built a fairly conventional ostentatious house but he’s decorated it with treasured from Kyuushu, which Hideyoshi has banned. So Nagamasu is forced to hastily redecorate before the Chief Advisor returns or face his potential wrath.
Rikyu has built himself a tiny teahouse, only 1.5 tatami – a gesture which Nagamasu takes as a slap at Hideyoshi’s grandiosity. The tension between them is clearly growing, and Rikyu’s disciples (like the now itinerant Yamanoue) seem kind of out of control. Then there’s the mansion of Hosokawa Tadaoki (whose direct descendant would go on to be the first non-LDP prime minister of the postwar era and earn even more fame as a potter), which is constructed entirely in black (which Sasuke mocks with considerable enthusiasm).
Sasuke’s mansion, as you’d expect, is the talk of the town. He’s taken the lessons of Hechikan to heart but totally missed the point of them, constructing his mansion if faux-distressed style that’s complete with self-made fissures and intentionally scorched beams. It’s incredibly pretentious, which I think is exactly the point to be made about this whole minimalist mania gripping the court. As for Rikyu his reaction when he sees it may be horror or it may be jealousy, it’s hard to tell. When the artist Touhaku reveals his ludicrous (to me) painted doors, Sasuke is horrified but Rikyu professes to be entranced. Is he really, or is he just trolling Sasuke in a big way?
The crux of all this, though, is Hideyoshi’s plan to have a giant tea ceremony for all the aesthetes in Japan, the largest ever. This was to be the greatest tea ceremony in history and would come to be knows as the Grand Kitano Tea Ceremony, taking place at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in northern Kyoto. Sen no Rikyu would play an integral role in this event, though his true feelings about it are a source of much historical speculation for obvious reasons. If you know your Sengoku history you know things between these two giants of men are about to get very interesting indeed.