Wabicha (wabi style of tea ceremony) (わび茶)
Wabicha is a style of chanoyu (Japanese tea ceremony) in a restricted sense of the word. It represents a simple tea ceremony performed in a 4.5 tatami-mat tea room or less, compared to the more gorgeous tea ceremony performed in a shoin room (formal reception room). It also represents all styles of tea ceremonies based on the SEN no Rikyu style in a broad sense.
The Term Wabicha
The term 'wabicha' came into use during the Edo period, and is not a concept developed when Juko MURATA and SEN no Rikyu were alive. It is also believed that it was called 'wabisuki' during the Momoyama period when Rikyu was alive.
In 'Nanporoku' (Southern Record) written around 1688 to 1703, there is a term 'wabichayu' which is likely to be synonymous with 'wabicha.'
Appearance of Juko and Joo Takeno
In the later Muromachi period, drinking tea was popular even among ordinary people, while in formal tea ceremonies, expensive Chinese utensils called 'karamono' (particularly, utensils with popular names were called 'Meibutsu (tea utensils)') were in use. Contrary to the trend appreciating such expensive karamono, Juko was using humble utensils such as inexpensive Chinese ceramics (inexpensive celadon ceramics called 'Juko Seiji' were typical) and Joo Takeno, Rikyu's teacher, was fond of Shigaraki-yaki ware and Bizen-yaki ware. Various practices and performances made by both were thought to trigger the commencement of wabicha. Wabicha was thought to evolve from rejecting an existing set of values appreciating the karamono.
It is believed that Soju, one of Juko's disciples, and Joo Takeno contributed to the development of wabicha and that SEN no Rikyu completed the style of wabicha. Since there are few historical materials written or recorded by these four people including Juko, much of the information now available is based on legend and it is hard to really know the nature of their styles of tea ceremony. Only in the case of Rikyu, there are densho (books on the esoterica) written by his disciples and offspring about his activities, from which we are able to obtain some information.
SEN no Rikyu
SEN no Rikyu endeavored to develop wabicha further, and had professionals produce utensils based upon the designs he drew to use for his tea ceremonies in addition to his ordinary Japanese utensils. During the Rikyu era, Rakujawan made at Rikyu's request was regarded as a bad utensil unlike Tenmoku Chawan (tea bowl) which was a typical karamono. Also, Rikyu was using imported goods such as Kourai Chawan (Korean tea bowl) and Luzon (Philippines) pots, which were mass produced and regarded as poor utensils. In addition, he was using simple bamboo utensils he made by himself.
He allowed a revolution in the space where tea drinking was practiced.
The tea room conception as a modern idea was established after the modern ages began, and during the Rikyu's period, the space to enjoy tea drinking was called 'Zashiki,' 'Kakoi,' or 'Sukiya.'
Basically, that space was arranged by installing tatami mats in a room in Shoin-zukuri style (a traditional Japanese style of residential architecture that includes a tokonoma).
On the other hand, Rikyu designed an extremely small tea room only intended for making and drinking tea, as represented by 'Machi-an.'
As it is popular as a current tea room, the idea of a square door called nijiriguchi (crawling entrance) was developed by Rikyu, and before that, people entered a tea room by shoji (a paper sliding door) situated between the tea room and engawa (a veranda or terrace surrounding the house in Japanese architecture).
SEN no Sotan
As a matter of fact, the person who advanced Rikyu's tea style and completed it to the one very close to the image of current 'wabicha' was Rikyu's grandson, SEN no Sotan. He was so devoted to studying and exploring wabicha that he was called 'Sotan the beggar' (living an honorable life of poverty, in the old sense). On the other hand, Shigechika KANAMORI and Enshu KOBORI were pursuing a bit freer and more colorful and gorgeous tea ceremony style, as if they were acting against Sotan's behaviors.
Originally, they started wabicha to oppose the use of expensive karamono such as Meibutsu and, instead, were using inexpensive utensils including rakujawan, bamboo vases and lacquered tea container natsume (tea utensil), but as the head family of the school was taking power in the Edo period, such inexpensive tea utensils became Meibutsu because of hakogaki (description written on tea utensil's case), records of history and naming. In addition, a koma (a small tea room) originally supposed to be sotai (simple) became ceremonial during the modern age due to the spread of large-scaled tea ceremonies, and a reversal phenomenon occurred, where people love to use shintai (true) utensils such as a karakane (Chinese copper) flower vase and karamono tea leaf container in a koma.