The refined Japanese custom of ritualistically drinking frothy green tea in ceramic bowls was perfected during the bloody era of internecine strife that unified the Japanese islands into a single polity. To the outsider, the idea of aesthetes and warlords quietly contemplating the merits of warped, cracked, and misfired ceramics in an aura of refined appreciation is somewhat odd. However, to the followers of the Way of Tea at the time, aesthetics were a matter of life and death. Futura Oribe, a tea master for whom the beautiful, multipatterned ceramics featured in this exhibition catalog are named, was reputedly forced into committing suicide by the ruler of Japan for aesthetic offenses that included purposely breaking tea ceremony ceramics so that subsequent repairs would make them more picturesque. All this and much more can be gleaned from this catalog, which accompanies an exhibition at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. Superb photos (293 color) place the tea ceremony ceramics in the context of 16th-century Japanese textiles, screens, and lacquer. Particularly interesting is the influence of the first European traders, whose ventures are depicted on dramatic screens. Accessible to the general public and essential for artists, art historians, and students of Japan.-David McClelland, Philadelphia Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.