Thursday, 20 June 2013

Furuta Oribe

Tea master, philosopher and garden designer, who also had a stone lantern, Oribe-gata, designed to decorate his tomb and so became named after him. He was a highly influential Tea master, perhaps second only to Sen no Rikyu in his impact on the form and manner of Cha no yu. He was the author of  ‘One Hundred Precepts of the Way of Tea”.

Oribe was born Furata Shigeyoshi, his father, a Tea devotee, was in service to Hideyoshi Toyotomi. Oribe studied the Tea ceremony under Rikyu in his formative years, and entered the service of Hideyoshi after his father’s death. He must have of impressed his employer as he was given the title ‘Oribe-no-sho’ and succeeded Rikyu as Supreme Tea Master.  He was to also serve as Tea Master to Tokugawa Ieyasu , from whom he received a substantial stipend. Oribe while on the one hand following the simple and refined style of Tea as developed by Rikyu, set out to make his own mark. He was known for his fastidious taste.

Oribe had his distinct preferences in the manner of the Tea garden (Roji). He liked coniferous trees, in particular in the roji, instead of Rikyu’s bamboo and pines. In the matter of planting trees, Oribe preferred the saki-agari style, (Distance-raising style), where the tallest elements are placed in the background of the composition and the lowest in the foreground. He dictated that the stepping stones should sit one and a half inches above ground, as opposed to Rikyu’s prescribed two inches. Whilst Rikyu preferred a roji planted in a wholly naturalistic manner, Oribe preferred a more ordered scene, with the thatched roof of the Tea house seen in the distance. Oribe, and then Enshu after him developed the Koshikake arbour, a small building in the inner garden where guests would retire to smoke tobacco during an interval in the Tea ceremony. Guests would also use the koshikake to change their clothes, hence its other name, Ishõdõ, Attiring Room. 

Though a Tea Master he may have of been, Oribe was not without his critics, it may have of been due to the manner of his personality for he was highly regarded in all questions of the Tea Ceremony. One can image the difficulty for one to follow so directly in the steps of such a Tea master as Sen no Rikyu. A critic was moved to retort, ”Oribe may have of learnt the Way of Tea ( Chado ), but he had little knowledge of the Way of the Warrior ( Bushido ), and none at all of that of Common Sense.” The manner of his death is revealing of the manner of the man.

On a visit to the field headquarters, in the winter of 1615, during the siege of Osaka castle, Oribe received a slight wound whilst inspecting a barricade of bamboo poles, with a view to their potential use for making a teaspoon. Boasting of his ‘wound’ obtained at the front to Ieyasu the following day, Oribe found himself being ignored by the war lord who had heard a report of the incident. As Oribe left Ieyasu observed, “that Oribe is the sort of person who will die from a fish bone in the throat.” The remark made in public must have of wounded his pride deeply. The following summer (1616) Oribe along with his son made secret contact with the enemy, and with a number of others plotted to burn down the capital and abduct the Emperor. The plot was uncovered and Oribe and the other plotters were ‘granted death’ as a reward for their treason. In the manner of his unplanned ending, Oribe was to follow in the footsteps of his mentor Sen no Rikyu.

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