Gold Tea Ceremony Set Linked to 16th Century Warlord to Go On Auction Block

Courtesy of Shinwa Auction Co.
A gold tea ceremony set formerly owned by Count Takatsugu Todo will be auctioned off on Saturday in Tokyo.

A gold tea ceremony set formerly owned by the house of Count Takatsugu Todo, a direct descendant of the Sengoku warring states warlord Todo Takatora, will be auctioned off in Tokyo’s Marunouchi district on Saturday.

Shinwa Auction Co., the auction organizer based in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, expects the set to draw a winning bid of between ¥150 million and ¥300 million.

The set comprises 10 items, including a tea bowl, saucer, kettle, portable brazier, ladle stand and metal chopsticks. All items except for the silver lid of the tea caddy are made of a gold and silver alloy with a gold content of 80-88%, according to the auction house.

The set was once in the possession of Count Todo (1884-1943). It was put on display in 1929 at an exhibition of noted Japanese treasures organized by The Yomiuri Shimbun and held in the Tokyo’s Ueno district.

While the year of production and the artisan are unknown, there have been various stories passed down about the set. One is that it was a gift to Takatora from Toyotomi Hideyoshi as a reward for the invasion of Korea in the late 16th century, while another says that Takatora dug them out of the burnt ruins of Osaka Castle.

Rulers and powerful feudal lords had gold tea ceremony sets made as symbols of their authority starting in the Muromachi period (1336-1573). Both Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu, who established the Edo shogunate, owned such utensils.

However, few such items are known to exist today. A gold set including stand that Tokugawa Iemitsu, the third shogun of the Edo Shogunate, is said to have presented to his daughter upon her marriage is currently in the collection of the Tokugawa Art Museum. It has been designated as an important cultural property.