Traditional Culture of Japan - Traditional crafts and culture

A tea ceremony for samurai and another one for ordinary people: Katagiri Sekishū, Matsudaira Fumai, and Kawakami Fuhaku


Sen no Rikyū (1522-1591) is the best-known figure in the world of tea ceremony. He is recognized as the person who established wabi-cha, the simple tea ceremony so widely performed today.


He was very influential because all tea ceremony schools can be traced back to him. However, after Rikyū's death, the tea ceremony continued to develop.


  A samurai tea ceremony in the Sekishū-ryū style
Rikyū was born in an era known as the Warring States period, when Japan was ravaged by war in many parts of the country. However, the turmoil eventually became resolved and Japan became peaceful. Not very long after Rikyū’s death, a new era arrived, one that was to last hundreds of years: the Edo period (1603-1868).


However, because Rikyū’s concept of the tea ceremony was quite simple and plain, other tea ceremony schools emerged, bringing more light into the tea house and preferring more ornate tea utensils. One of these schools was Sekishū-ryū.


In those times, it was quite usual for samurai and government officials to attend tea ceremonies. This is why, more than samurai and governmental officials, exceptional masters of tea ceremony used to have great political influence. Katagiri Sekishū (1605-1673), the founder of Sekishū-ryū, was one of these masters.


Sekishū served the House of Tokugawa that ruled the Edo shogunate. He was the tea ceremony teacher of the fourth generation shogun. In other words, he was giving tea ceremony lessons to the supreme leader of Japan at that time. This is why Sekishū-ryū was the most popular tea ceremony school in Edo period. The Sekishū-ryū style was the most popular style among the samurai.


Samurai all over Japan were performing tea ceremonies in Sekishū-ryū style. In the latter part of Edo period, there emerged from among these samurai some who were recognized as particularly talented masters of tea ceremony.


One of them was Matsudaira Fumai (1751-1818), who ruled Izumo Matsue (present-day Shimane prefecture). He studied the Sekishū-ryū style of tea ceremony and achieved good results by applying its principles in ruling over his province. This is why the area he ruled is famous for tea and Japanese confectionery even today.


Fumai is also known as an enthusiastic tea ceremony researcher who collected many tea ceremony utensils and graded them.


  A Senke tea ceremony for the general populace
While the tea ceremony was performed by samurai in this era, it also spread among the general populace. In other words, this was an era in which learning the tea ceremony as a form of training became popularized.


The tea ceremony schools that are derived from the style created by the master Rikyū are known as Senke. The names of the three schools are Omotesenke, Urasenke, and Mushanokōjisenke. As a whole, they are referred to as the “san Senke” (the three Senke).


The Senke schools made a profession of teaching the tea ceremony. In the Edo period, the heads of these schools made their living by teaching the Way of Tea. Unlike Sekishū-ryū, which was focused on samurai, these schools disseminated the practice of tea ceremony among ordinary people. An important figure who studied the Omotesenke style of tea ceremony was Kawakami Fuhaku (1716-1807).


After learning tea ceremony in Kyoto, Fuhaku returned to Edo (now known as Tokyo) and began to teach samurai and townspeople the Way of Tea. By adapting to the culture of Edo townsfolk, he developed a new tea ceremony that differed somewhat from the ceremony performed in Kyoto, and his style became popular among the citizens of Edo.


Thus, tea ceremony schools adapted their values and changed with the times. When tea ceremony is mentioned, the simple and frugal ceremony created by Rikyū tends to come readily to mind. But in fact, the tea ceremony has been developed by many people in their own various ways.

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