July 31, 2020
People Related to Japanese Tea | MURATA Juko

MURATA Juko (1422-1502) was born in Yamato Province (present Nara Prefecture). Juko grew up and entered Shomyo-ji (Temple) of the Jodo sect, but hated becoming a priest and studied under Noami, an artist and tea master in Kyoto.

It is said that he learned Chanoyu (tea ceremony), Japanese and Chinese renku (poetry), Noh (traditional play), Tachibana (flower arrangement) and Karamono (Chinese objects), and became ASHIKAGA Yoshimasa’s tea ceremony instructor on the recommendation of Noami.

He also interacted with IKKYU Sojun, a monk of the Rinzai sect, and learned Zen from him.

Based on these experiences, he discovered the spirit that formed the basis of “Wabicha”. In the time of Juko, the main event was the luxurious tea party (tea of the palace) where people enjoyed tea while loving foreign goods, but the spirit of “New tea ceremony” discovered by Juko was passed on to his disciples even after his death, and eventually led to the present Sadou (tea ceremony).

“Wabicha” aimed by MURATA Juko

Let's take a look at the “Wabicha” that Juko aimed at from his words.

Words related to “things”

Juko left the words, “It is vital to eliminate the sphere of Japanese and Chinese art”.

In contrast to the tendency to favor only Karamono (Chinese objects), he insisted that it was important to pay attention to the simple beauty of Japanese pottery as well, and brought a new sense of beauty to the world of Chanoyu (tea ceremony).

The tea utensils left by Juko are called “Juko Specialty” and there is an anecdote that one of them was used by SEN no Rikyu.

In addition, the words, “It is better to see the moon hidden between the clouds than the shining full moon, which is more beautiful”, indicate a new type of tea ceremony that considers the beauty of lack to be good.

This sense of beauty also influenced the construction of the teahouse, and Juko aimed to create beauty that appeared by dividing the teahouse into a small space of four and a half tatami mats and eliminating decorations.

Words related to “mind and spirit”

Juko, who was influenced by Zen, pursued “the beauty that emerges by eliminating objects to the extreme”. He then sought to make up for the lack of things with “spiritual richness”.

With an emphasis on the “mind and spirit" of Chanoyu, Juko states that the greatest obstacle to the way of the tea ceremony is the “conceit and self-obsession” and preaches that no matter how proficient one may be, one should obediently ask others for instructions and, for beginners, help with the training.

In addition, there is a passage that Juko wrote to his disciples, “Be apart from the mind’s master, and be the master of the mind”. It means “Don't be swayed by a changeable mind, but put yourself in a position to control it.” Juko aimed to make the tea ceremony “a place for spiritual training” where one can control one’s mind and confront oneself.

People who influenced MURATA Juko

How Juko's way of thinking was created. I will introduce two people who strongly influenced Juko.

Noami

Without meeting Noami, Juko could not come up with new ideas.

What he learned from Noami is the first-class culture of the time such as tea ceremony, Japanese and Chinese renku (poetry), Noh (traditional play) and Tachibana (flower arrangement).

By learning these things, he honed his sense of beauty, and by fusing the Zen philosophy described below, the Chanoyu that Juko aimed for was created.

In particular, he seems to have been strongly influenced by the Japanese and Chinese renku. It is easy to imagine that the idea of “eliminating the sphere of Japanese and Chinese art” was born by familiarizing himself with Japanese and Chinese renku, which repeat the responses of Japanese and Chinese poetry.

The idea of fusing both Japanese and Chinese knowledge and developing it into something new was born from here.

Zen monk, IKKYU Sojun

Juko was also greatly influenced by the Zen monk IKKYU Sojun, who is known as the “Ikkyu-san”.

IKKYU Sojun was a Zen monk who pursued freedom and was full of rebellious spirit. Juko learned “Zen teaching that eliminates waste” and “a mind that pursues the essence of something without being particular about anything” from Sojun.

Wabicha was not completed by Juko. However, Juko played the important role in “showing the way Wabicha should aim and go”.

Later, Juko's ideas spread with the support of the rich, and his disciples continued their studies, leading to the completion of the Chanoyu culture.

HISTORY, PEOPLE