Chaire, in its broadest sense, means chaki (tea utensils) in general into which powdered green tea is poured, and in a more limited sense means ceramic tea utensils, in contrast with wooden tea utensils (see "usuchaki" (tea utensils for a light tea)) as typified by natsume (a container for powdered tea). In many cases chaire has an ivory lid whose back is gilded.
Formerly it was called "kotsubo" (small pot) in distinction from chatsubo (tea jar) which was called "otsubo" (large pot) and, as a container for powdered green tea, it was also called "suri-chatsubo" (ground tea pot) in distinction from "ha-chatsubo" (tea leaf pot). Today it is also called "koi-chaki," as tea utensils for powdered green tea.
As ceramics, it is nothing more than "an unremarkable small brown glazed pot"(as referred to in the preface of "Karamono Chaire" (Chinese-Style Tea Canisters) written by Hiroko NISHIDA/Nezu Museum/2005), and finding beauty in chaire's subtle individuality is remarkably peculiar to tea ceremony culture.
It is a tea canister made in China, and ones which were brought in before the Muromachi period are highly valued (see "karamono" (things imported from China)).
It is a tea canister made in Japan. At first most pieces of Kuniyaki chaire were Seto-yaki (Seto ware), made in imitation of karamono (such pieces are specially called "huru-seto" (old Seto ware)) but during the Edo period Japan's original type of chaire was created under the coaching of Enshu KOBORI.
This type of chaire is dilated, and considered old-fashioned. A smaller one is called "Naikai."
This is a small chaire which gradually narrows from the base toward the top. It was originally more prestigious than Katatsuki, and in the old days it was customarily placed on a lacquered tray when it was used. It is distinguished from "Bunrin" and "Shirihukura" on the basis of subtle differences in shape. Pieces which are especially famous in history are sometimes called the great three "Nasu" tea caddies.
This type of chaire, with its shoulder dilated, looks more robust than Nasu. Pieces of chaire produced today are mostly Katatsuki. Furthermore, today, some use Katatsuki to refer to all pieces of chaire which are vertically long.
There are many other kinds of chaire, which are further classified into subcategories in connection with meibutsu (masterpieces).
Because little progress had been made in production of glazed earthenware in medieval Japan, small glazed pots brought in from China as oil pots (opinion is divided) were cherished. During the Muromachi period the value of chaire was enhanced as a container for powdered green tea, and when better pieces began to be selected with the progress of formalization of shitsurai (placing decorations suitable for a season or ritual onto appropriate indoor places) (see "Kundaikansochoki" (book of secrets about zashiki-kazari (decoration of room or study with shoin (one of Japan's most important residential architectural styles, established in Momoyama era)))), especially excellent pieces were given a name and ranked as "masterpieces." It seems that matching ceramic lids were not produced at first, and ivory lids as seen today are considered to have been created by Japanese.
During the Momoyama period in particular, it was essential for connoisseurs to be able to judge the quality of chaire and so they spent enormous effort trying to see "masterpieces." Furthermore, as tea ceremonies in small tearooms were favored (see "wabi-cha"), more importance was placed on Katatsuki than on Nasu, which was prestigious and suitable for Shoin (reception room).