Murata Juko (村田珠光)

Juko MURATA (1432 - June 29, 1502) was a chajin (master of the tea ceremony) in the middle of the Muromachi period. He was widely believed to be the founder of 'Wabicha' (the tea of refined simplicity). As he was a Buddhist monk, he should be called, in principle, without a surname.
In practice, however, he has been called 'Juko MURATA.'

His career is not clear but according to historical records compiled in later years, his father was Mokuichi MURATA Kengyo and his childhood name was Mokichi. He became a Buddhist monk at Shomyo-ji Temple (Nara City), the temple of Jodo Sect. Based on postwar research, it was once believed that he had returned to secular life and become a merchant, but currently it is generally believed that he had been a Buddhist monk throughout his life because of the discovery of "Yamashinake raiki" (diary of Hisamori OSAWA, zassho (a person in charge of miscellaneous tasks) of the Yamashina family), which was written in the year when Juko was 64 years old, in which he was referred to as 'Jukobo' (monk Juko).

In addition, it has also been believed that he practiced Zen meditation when he was around 30 years old under the guidance of Sojun IKKYU, a monk of Daitoku-ji School of the Rinzai Sect, but some researchers are skeptical since no firm historical records that support such a view exist. However, the fact that he had a close relationship with Daitoku-ji Temple is certain, because according to the article on May 15 of second year of Bunki era in the death register of Shinjuan Temple founded by IKKYU, 'Jukoan-shu' offered 1 kan-mon (10,000 yen) for the memorial service on the thirteenth death anniversary of IKKYU (source : "History of Chanoyu," Isao KUMAKURA, Asahi sensho paperback). Further, even if Juko had practiced Zen meditation under IKKYU, it could be for the purpose of ascetic practices in various sects and teachings and it is impossible to conclude that he converted to Rinzai Sect (it is true, however, that his son Soju was a Buddhist monk of Rinzai Sect).

Based on 'Juko Isshi Mokuroku' (Juko's diary about the method of judgment) in "Yamanoue Soji ki" (The Record of Soji YAMANOUE) (Nigatsu-bon), it had also been believed that Juko served Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA, 8th shogun of the Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), as an instructor of the tea ceremony, but the results of current research on the history of the tea ceremony basically disputes this fact because the descriptions concerning Noami that are included in the same book are not correct in light of the year of his birth and death.

Juko's Tea Ceremony
There are few historical records as explained, but his letter written on a scroll titled 'Furuichi harima hoshi Juko' (its byname is 'Kokoro no Shi no Bun' (literally, a writing of master on my mind)), which was given to his disciple Choin FURUICHI, is highly valued as a precious documentary record of that time. The expression of 'hiekaruru' (literally, be cold and dry) that appears in the above document is the wording used in Renga (poetic dialogue) and this fact suggests that Juko's tea ceremony was substantially influenced by Renga. As Juko was acquainted with other artists, his remark saying 'I love the moonlight peeping through the cloud. It is interesting' was introduced in "Zenpo Zodan" (Miscellaneous conversations with Zenpo), a book written by Noh player Zenpo KONPARU, as a famous anecdote concerning Juko.

As the above anecdote shows, his attitude of refusing perfectness itself was the starting point of new tea drinking culture that led to 'Wabicha.'

In the shogun family of the Muromachi period, the Tenmoku tea bowl or celadon porcelain tea bowl of Ryusengama were appreciated because of the tea drinking culture that valued Tang-style tea bowls, but Juko praised plain "Juko bowls" and established the tea ceremony using such plain tea utensils. Juko's tea ceremony was developed by his disciples, including his son Soju, and he was acclaimed in later years by SEN no Rikyu as the founder of the tea ceremony.

Tea Utensils Which Juko Loved
There are many tea utensils which are believed to be those that Juko loved and they are collectively called 'Juko specialties.'
Principal items are as follows.

Juko tea bowl
Nagezukin tea caddy
Juko bunrin tea container
Juko censer
Kango bokuseki (圜悟墨蹟)
"Painting of egret" by Joki
The fact that Juko owned these utensils was the grounds for the assertion that he once returned to secular life (this is the reason why he has been generally known with by the name 'Juko Murata'). However, according to "Seigan Meibutsu-ki," a record of specialties which was compiled during the Tenmon era and discovered recently, only the Juko tea bowl is listed as a utensil that was owned by Juko. According to "Yamanoue Soji ki" in 1588, many utensils are listed as the ones that were owned by Juko and the necessity to probe possible fabrication of an oral tradition arose. The above fact enhanced the credibility of the view that Juko had been a Buddhist monk throughout his life, which was based on the above-mentioned "Yamashina-ke raiki."

Further, the credibility of the view asserting that Juko owned Tang-style specialties languished thanks to the above view, and it has become necessary to rethink the meaning of his description, which appears in 'Kokoro no shi no fumi,' saying 'make the border between Japanese-Chinese admixed.'

Incidentally, there also exists the view asserting that Juko made Goro HANEDA produce natsume (tea utensil), but this view is also questionable because according to chakai-ki (the record of the tea ceremony), natsume was first used from 1558 to 1569, after the death of Joo TAKENO, and its first use was later than other wooden tea utensils.

[Original Japanese]