Ueda Sōko Ryū History

The Ueda Sōko Tradition of Tea is a Tradition of Japanese tea ceremony (chanoyu) that originated within the samurai nobility of feudal Japan.

 

The Tradition is commonly called the Ueda Sōko Ryū or just Ueda Ryū (‘Ryū’ meaning ‘Tradition’ or 'School' in Japanese). The founder and person from whom the Tradition takes its name was Sengoku period warlord Ueda Sōko. The customs, etiquette and values of the samurai are woven throughout all aspects of the tradition’s practice of chanoyu, a practice that has continued unbroken for over 400 years.

 

After first serving Niwa Nagahide as a page, Ueda Sōko was later chosen by Toyotomi Hideyoshi as one of his aides and daimyo. Ueda learnt chanoyu from Sen no Rikyu and Furuta Oribe before establishing his own style of chanoyu deeply influenced by the values and customs of the samurai of the Sengoku period (mid 15th-early 17th century). Since Ueda’s time the Ueda School has continued for 16 generations under an iemoto system. The present and 16th iemoto is Ueda Sōkei.

 

Ueda Sōko is famous as one of the leading garden designers of the Momoyama period (1568-1603). He is well known for designing and constructing many gardens listed in Japan as places of great scenic beauty. These include Shukkeien (Hiroshima prefecture), Tokushima Castle Front Palace Garden (also known as Senshūkaku-teien, Tokushima prefecture), Nagoya Castle Garden (Ninomaru-teien, Nagoya prefecture), Wakayama Castle’s Nishinomaru-teien and Kokuwadera-teien (Wakayama prefecture).

 

Following the Siege of Osaka (1614-1615), the Toyotomi clan was disbanded in 1619 and Ueda relocated to Hiroshima under his lord Asano Nagaakira who was to become Daimyo of the Geishū domain (Hiroshima domain). Ueda was given a fief in the West of Hiroshima prefecture yielding 17,000 koku of rice (around 2,788 tonnes) and became Asano’s chief retainer for the Geishū domain.

 

As chief retainers of the Geishsū domain, the Ueda family governed their land in West Hiroshima for generations. Sōko’s chanoyu was passed down through the generations and continues to thrive today.

 

Wabi-cha is a style of chanoyu developed in the Momoyama period that gives precedence to chanoyu practiced in koma (four and a half mat-size and smaller) tea rooms using rustic equipages amid a tense atmosphere; all natural conclusions from emphasising the aesthetic concept of wabi. The Ueda Ryū is a School of chanoyu that values wabi-cha and emphasises wabi aesthetics. Another dimension to the Ueda Ryū is that since the Momoyama period it has continued as one of the unique Traditions of chanoyu known as bukeh-cha, or traditions of chanoyu that originated in and were developed by the samurai class. Accordingly, bukeh-cha, or 'Samurai Tea' traditions of chanoyu are noticeably rich with the culture and customs of the samurai. The Ueda School now has wide repute as a tradition representative of bukeh-cha.