Furuta Oribe 古田 織部 (1544? – July 6, 1615) is the most celebrated tea master in history after his teacher Sen Rikyu. Unlike the merchant Rikyu, Oribe was a member of the samurai class and he lead the development of a style of tea suited to cultural values of the samurai class known as ‘bukeh-cha’ (Samurai-class Chanoyu). Oribe held daimyō status and was originally a retainer of Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi before serving the Tokugawa clan.
Oribe became the foremost tea master in Japan after Rikyū's death, and taught the art of chanoyu to the 2nd Tokugawa shōgun, Tokugawa Hidetada. Among his other famous tea ceremony students were Kobori Enshū, Honami Kōetsu and Ueda Sōko.
The artistic influence of the still-popular Oribe-ware style of ceramics is attributed to Oribe and bears his name accordingly. He also designed a style of stone lantern (tōrō) for the roji tea garden, known as Oribe-dōrō.
During the Osaka Campaign of 1615, Oribe was suspected of treason against the Tokugawa and ordered to commit ritual disembowelment (seppuku), along with his son.
As Oribe’s family was wiped out following his seppuku, his tea legacy continued with Ueda Sōko, a student of Oribe’s for 24 years. Sōko exiled to Shikoku following the Osaka Campagin for three years before being invited to serve the Asano clan as their chief retainer and tea master in the Hiroshima domain. One settled in Hiroshima, Ueda Sōko defined his style of tea heavily influenced by Oribe.
Furuta Oribe’s style of tea was a dynamic play of incommensurable aesthetic ideals. The unconscious was not merely an object for meditation for Oribe, it was a world to walk through, sit in, feel with all the senses; to drink.
Kabuki, meaning ‘bizarre’, ‘avant-garde’ and ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ was the emerging, controversial performance art form of Oribe’s time. This movement deeply influenced Oribe’s tea. Oribe commissioned warped tea bowls that sang as ciphers of hidden flesh, erotic fantasy and grotesque depths of the unconscious. He broke existing rules of tea, constantly daring his guests to piece together his aesthetic play.
Oribe distilled the overt pleasure of kabuki into silent theatre, into tea gatherings that transformed himself and his guests through psychological pleasure and restraint. In this lie an enlightened view of the self. But the intensity of Oribe, like his teacher Rikyu before him, provoked such an extreme reaction from the power structures of society that it could not be borne without the extinction of the artist.