Chatsubo (tea urn) (茶壺)

Chatsubo is an earthenware jar (tea leaf jar), that is used to store the tencha (leaf tea), non-powdered green tea before mortared by stone mill. In the past, it was called a large jar (tea canister) in contrast to a small jar (tea container), the name for a chaire (tea container) that was used to store powdered green tea.

Though it would be looked upon as plain brown earthenware nowadays, a pot that was glazed like this had to be relied upon imports in medieval Japan. From such imports, those with superior shapes and manners of creation were most likely honored. Especially those that came via Luzon, Philippines, are called 'Luzon' and are much emphasized in chatsubo. In addition, among the Luzon pots, those without letters or patterns are called 'matsubo' (an unfigured tea caddy). Furthermore, the Luzon pots are classified as 'shimamono' (an imported tea caddy) within the tea utensils.

These fine jars (pots) are the objects of appreciation of art, and were especially emphasized among the tea utensils during the Muromachi period. Yoshinori ASHIKAGA named his chatsubo 'Shime no Nawa' (a sacred straw festoon), and this is considered as the most early example of naming a tea utensil. However, it gradually started to loose its position to chaire as chanoyu (the tea ceremony) in smaller tearooms become popular.

Also, those copies were produced with Bizen yaki (Bizen ware) and Shigaraki-yaki (Shigaraki ware) as demands increased along with the expansion of tea ceremony, and in the Edo period, Ninsei NONOMURA created a chatsubo colored with various hues and gold specifically for the shitsurai (putting decorations suitable for a season or ritual onto an appropriate indoor places).

Chatsubo (Tea leaf jar) journey
In the Edo period, processions were held to transport the chatsubo contained Uji tea, a special local product of the present day Uji City, Kyoto Prefecture, which was to be presented to the Tokugawa Shogun family; the route taken (Tokai-do Road, Nakasen-do Road) was called the 'Chatsubo journey.'
This event that lasted from 1633 on up to the Tokugawa shogunate's collapse, continued to grow in scale until Yoshimune TOKUGAWA called for the thrift ordinance; at one point, it is said that the procession was of a size consisting of several hundred to several thousand people. The procession of the chatsubo which surpassed a rural lord's daimyo-gyoretsu (feudal lord's costumed procession) is still sung about today in an old children's song "zuizui zukkorobashi."

[Original Japanese]