Among the many Korai-style Korean ware tea vessels, the Mishima style is one that is still very often preferred in the Enshū school of tea ceremony. We often refer to a utensil as “in the Mishima style”, but frequently forget to appreciate the deeper variations and traits of the style. In this article I have attempted to shed some light on how even in one specific style of earthenware the variation in method and aesthetic value can be as great as the elaborate application of zōgan motifs or senkoku illustrations, and the simplicity of the creamy konahiki surface or a single brushstroke as seen in the hakeme style.
Tea ceremony is a beautiful practice that encapsulates most of Japan's traditional arts. Although the learner in the beginning of his practice focusses mostly on the perfection of the execution of a service of tea, once somewhat accustomed to it the road opens to an exploration of peripheral elements such as choice of implements, flower arrangement and appreciation of calligraphic scrolls.
When we consider the space in which we commonly conduct a service of tea, we become aware of the wide variety of layouts and sizes that these chambers or chashitsu come in. Each tea practitioner that lived and contributed to the development of the rite of tea throughout history, constructed and employed tea hermitages or tea chambers that suited his/her personal aesthetic and functional preferences.
Enshū's personal style and aesthetic preference inhabited all layers of the rite of tea, leaving a distinct mark on the history of the practice as a whole. His influence ranged from garden design and architecture, to the new creation of implements for use in the service of tea. Tea scoops, flower vases, tea bowls, etc. were affixed with motifs and forms of his choosing.
Wabi-sabi is a term that is often used to allude to rustic simplicity and the art of imperfection in our lives. The term has its roots in the Japanese rite of tea, but is used today more often outside its original context. The notion itself has received a place in today’s society as a mode of thought that should help us to live life more mindfully and aware of the inherent (yet imperfect) beauty of the things surrounding us. Needless to say that such interpretations fail to grasp the original meaning of wabi-sabi. This article aims to clarify what wabi-sabi is and how it should be understood.