On the north side of Hommaru is Ofukemaru, which contains four tea rooms, each with their own intriguing tale: the Sarumen Chaseki, Bōgaku Chaseki, Yūin Chaseki, and Oribe-dō.

The story goes that Nobunaga Oda (or his brother Urakusai, depending on the account) ordered tea master and feudal lord Oribe Furuta to build the Sarumen tea room. As a result, Iemitsu Tokugawa had it dismantled and rebuilt at Nagoya Castle. Its strange name of “Sarumen,” or “monkey face,” reportedly comes from the two knots left over after pruning the branches off of a wooden pillar inside the tea house’s alcove. Nobunaga remarked to his retainer, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, that the knots made the pillar look like his face, which he jokingly called “monkey-like.” Now, where in Nagoya Castle do you think the Sarumen tea room was originally located? If you guessed Ninomaru Palace, you’re right. During the Edo Period, guests would first pass through none other than the Sarumen tea room for a sip before continuing to Nagoya Castle for their official business. Unfortunately, the original Sarumen tea room was incinerated during the War, and the one currently located in Ofukemaru is a reconstruction.

Fascinatingly, all of the tea rooms were restored and rebuilt, with three out of the four being finished in 1949, and the last one in 1953. All four were completed shortly after the War but prior to 1955, the year when reparations on the castle tower were complete. Nagoya business people loved the art of Chanoyu, and felt they needed to rebuild and re-inaugurate the four tea houses in order to bring liveliness back to the city after the War. Few things speak to Nagoya’s love for tea more than this episode in its history. They are open to the public only a few times a year, but if you can afford it, you can experience them while sightseeing, or for tea ceremonies, and even weddings. Over 100 events are held there annually, including a community-wide tea party called the “Meijo Shimin Chakai” every spring and autumn, making them truly the “people’s tea houses.”

By the way, the origin of Ofukemaru’s complicated name comes from a pond in its north side called “Fuke.” Gardens were cultivated surrounding the pond, and the area surrounding modern-day Meijo Park was once called “Ofuke Park.” Within Ofuke Park, there’s an artificial hill called Mt. Seto where potters once plied their ceramics. These works came to be called “Ofuke-yaki,” and were produced in large quantities during the time of the first castle lord. However, they fell out of fashion for a long period of time, until the twelfth Tokugawa lord Naritaka brought them back into the spotlight. Now that’s a tea otaku for you!

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