Furuta Oribe (1544-1615) was a warrior that eventually became a chajin.
Some sources have his father as beeing among Hideyoshi’s cultural retainers, however this is unlikely. Oribe himself was a retainer of Oda Nobunaga. It was probably with his liege’s help that Oribe was able to marry Nakagawa Kiyohide, lord of Ibaraki’s, sister. Ibaraki castle was located in Settsu which correspond to present day Osaka and Hyogo prefecture.
Among his military achievements are convincing his friend and brother-in-law Kiyohide to switch sides from Murshige to Nobunaga around 1578.
Hideyoshi’s tea gatherings
After Nobunagas death/suicide, both Oribe and Kiyohide fought on Hideyoshi’s side to ensure his ascent to power. After this, Hideyoshi invited Nobunaga’s sado (tea masters) to attend two seperate gatherings.
At the first of Hideyoshi’s gatherings, Rikyu, Tsuda Sogyu (d. 1591), Imai Sokyu (1520-1593) and Yamanoue Soji (1544-1590) are listed as present.
It is likely that Oribe also attended these gatherings, since between the first and the second tea gathering, the same men as well as Ju Soho and Rikyus son-in-law Mozuya Soan (d 1594) attended. Rikyu writes, in a letter to Sochusai (1536-1627), that he will have tea with Oribe. This is the first time Oribe is mentioned regarding tea.
Rikyu and Oribe
Is is both possible and likely that there was contact between Oribe and Rikyu prior to Hideyoshi’s gatherings, as both men served Oda Nobunaga and were present in Hideyoshi’s camp at the same time.
Tennojiya Kai Ki (Tennojiya Merchant’s Record of Tea Gatherings) and Imai Sokyu Chanoyu Nikki Kakinuki (Imai’s tea diary) have mentioned Oribe as a guest at a tea gathering hosted by Hideyoshi in Osaka castle. The latter states that all Hideyoshi’s tea masters and four warriors (including Oribe) attended.
Rikyu taught Oribe the fundamentals of tea. Later, Oribe would write Oribe Densho (Book of secrets) and Oribe Hyakka (one hundred precepts). In both books he would accredit Rikyu. Oribe was associated with Rikyu for about 10 years. When Rikyu was confined to his home in Sakai, only Hosokawa Sansai (1563-1645) and Oribe went to see him. Both men would have been severly punished if this was discovered by Hideyoshi. From this, one can understand the close relationship the two must have had with Rikyu.
Oribe as teacher
All the major chajin from Nobunagas reign, Rikyu, Yamanoue Soji, Imai Sokyu and Tsuda Sogyu, died within a few years of each other. This opened the field for a new generation of tea masters. It was remarked that the only reason Oribe was allowed to teach, was that all the greater men had passed away. Sources are disagreeing on Oribes actual skills and abilities. Some stories make fun of his mistakes and shortcommings, while other give him vast credit. The new generation of tea mastes never gained the same position as Rikyu had, within Hideyoshi‘s government. Nonetheless, when Hideyoshi died, Oribe received part of his estate.
Oribe becomes Tokugawa Ieyasu‘s third son Hidetada‘s (1579-16329) teacher. It is he who introduce him to the highest procedures of the etiquette (chaji no u’no) in 1600. By 1610 he is considered the greatest tea person in the Land, at least by the Tokugawa, who receive him as such in Edo.
Oribe was forced to commit suicide in 1615 for his alledged part in an planned coup d’etat. The plan had been masterminded by one of Oribe’s retainers. They were to burn down Nijo castle in Kyoto with the Tokugawa inside. Oribe’s son was probably the source of this plan, and it is considered unlikely that Oribe was part of it.
An Oribe uzukumaru also by Rosanjin Kitaoji
When thinking of Oribe style, it is common to consider the warped kutsugata chawan and vividly colored utensils, but he is acredited with several inventions.
The Kutsugata chawan was not the first warped chawan. Yugami (warped) had been populare in previous generations. These had been warped by accident, while Oribe’s were warped by intent. The first mention of such a chawan is in Sotan Nikki (Kamiya Sotan‘s dictionary) in 1599.
Shiki Matsub, the spreading of pine needles in the garden during winter to give a sensation of warmth, was Oribe’s invention. So is the notion to only fill as much tea in the chaire as needed to make tea. Both the chaire and the natsume used to be filled very full.
Oribe’s tea was suited to the warrior class, from which he came. He was first and foremost a warrior, then a chajin. For instance; His tea rooms were light, with many windows. He had tea rooms in which there was a sliding wall that could be pulled out between the first guest and the rest of the guests. In this he enforced social distinctions, where Rikyu had tried to erase them.
Oribe introduced and made famous a particular style, which we today call Oribe-style.