Tools and the feelings they evoke[May 2013]

Fuden-An: Leaves from a Tea-Journal

Tools and the feelings they evoke[May 2013]

KOBORI Sojitsu (the 13th Grand Master of the Enshu Sado School )

As we approach a fresh and green season, the place where we conduct our tea ceremony looks very different now that it is time to serve the first 'fu-ro' of the year. I like the refreshing feeling I get this time of year.

I would like to write about something related to Enshu. In March I had the pleasure of using a vase by the name of ' Miyamagi '. Last year's 'Sairai' was a great specimen of a ringless two folded bamboo vase while the 'Shinzanboku'is indeed an excellent specimen of the shakuhachi style.

Bamboo vases are said to belong to one of three types created by Rikkyu from bamboo collected on Nirayama mountain : Enjoji, Yonaga and Shakuhachi. It is the last type Shakuhachi which I believe best embodies the spirit of wabisabi. Rikkyu made the vase a present to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, used it fondly, only to be thrown away after Rikkyu committed suicide. Yamaoka Soumu found it and continued to use it with great care.

In fact this vase made its way into the Enshu. Enshu likely felt Rikkyu's presence in the vase and called it the 'Shakuhachi floral tube' and asked Takuan Osho to write a history of the vase. A song was written about it and Kogetsu Oshou used it as part of the many pieces of art complementing tea ceremony.

Enshu went on to find another bamboo which made a similar impression on him and cut it down to make it into the 'Miyamagi’. It is not difficult to imagine the joy that consumed Enshu as I myself create bamboo vases. Again, Kogetsu Oshou wrote a poem on the back of the vase.

Rikkyu and Enshu had different approaches to cutting the bamboo which would then be used to make the vases. While both the Enshu and Rikkyu style both cut the bamboo at the same point halfway down the bamboo pipe, Enshu likes to cut it so it accentuates the thickness of the bamboo pipe. This is what I believe to be what represents what is truly unique about Enshu for his ‘Kirei-sabi’. It was a great pleasure for us all to see the Miyamagi.

Around the same time, an exhibition “Kobori Enshū and Matsudaira Fumai: 
 The Aesthetics of Daimyō Tea Masters” was held at the Nezu museum. On the day prior to the opening day, I had the pleasure of seeing the exhibition with the proprietor. I enjoyed a very distinguished and stately display of the tea ceremony tools of ‘kirei sabi’ collected by Enshu and Fumai.

Enshu Tea ceremony is considered to be a composite art and one of its defining characteristics is the way in which the tools are not used simply as tools but as art carefully treated with cases for tea containers, boxes for tea bowls etc…… It is said that Matsudaira Harusato, a daimyo of the mid-Edo period, and also known as Matsudaira Fumai, also had a careful appreciation of the tools used in tea ceremony and added a box to the collection of tools, influenced by Enshu. It was a great pleasure to get to see those tools on display.

Tea ceremony is not just the process nor just the tools, but also the spirituality and even the design of the garden, and is made up of many elements.

The exhibition was thought provoking considering we now live in a world where we throw things away without a second thought.