Meibutsu (in this case, good tea utensils) (名物 (茶道具))

Meibutsu can be regarded as a rating of tea utensils.

While in a broad sense, meibutsu indicates all good tea utensils which have nicknames, and generally refers to utensils selected and is listed on records such as Meibutsuki (Record of specialty).

Further, in some cases, Meibutsu is limited to utensils that were famous during the time of SEN no Rikyu against O-meibutsu (explained below) and Chuko-meibutsu (explained below).

An atmosphere to appreciate tea utensils imported from China had already grown by the Muromachi period, however, chajin, namely men of tea, began to establish their own criterion of their forms and midokoro (characteristics) for ranking the tea utensils. In particular, famous utensils are demarcated from ordinary ones based on the name of chajin who had utensils, thus a new framework of 'meibutsu' was formed.

During the Tensho era (1573 - 91) when Rikyu played an active role, senses of values greatly changed regarding tea utensils mainly in Sakai City that was full of enterprising individuals.
(This influenced a new form of wabicha (simple, austere, frugal tea ceremony.)
Tea jars were most valued at first; however, chaire (tea containers) became more important in place of jars in the age of Rikyu. This change in the order of tea utensils was identified in "YAMANOUE no Soji ki" (a book of secrets written by YAMANOUE no Soji, the best pupil of SEN no Rikyu), and it should be noted that the Ido chawan (a rustic tea bowl possessed by Hideyoshi) made in Korea was among the meibutsu.

During the Edo period, many meibutsuki such as "Ganka meibutsuki" (Record of Named Objects for Appreciation) were published and their senses of values became widespread among the general public. However, this "Ganka meibutsuki" graded tea utensils in order of the family lineage of the owners, such as the three privileged branches of the Tokugawa, while prices of tea utensils were not determined according to their superiority in their appearance but to the rank of the Daimyo family (feudal lords family) which owned the utensils.

In the early Edo period, Enshu KOBORI picked up Kuniyaki Chaire (tea containers) made in Japan which have been made light of until the time, and he placed inscriptions according to the utensils' characteristics after the themes of waka poems (waka inscriptions).

In the late Edo period, Harusato MATSUDAIRA (Fumaiko)'s "Unshu Meibutsu cho" (Fumai Matsudaira's records about the collection of tea utensils of Izumo Province) was published and after this, the grades of 'O-meibutsu' (great famous objects), 'Meibutsu' (famous objects) and 'Chuko meibutsu' (later famous objects) prevailed.

Although it is a framework formed in the above-mentioned "Unshu Meibutsu cho", today it sometimes indicates upper grade tea utensils among meibutsu. Utensils in possession of the Ashikaga Shogunate (Higashiyama gyomotsu, things, such as paintings, tea utensils, flower vases, collected by Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA, the eighth shogun of the Muromachi bakufu), and the most prized utensils in the age of Rikyu are main part of this category.

In contrast to the O-meibutsu above, tea utensils famous in the age of Rikyu were simply called 'Meibutsu' and the utensils set lower than the 'Meibutsu' belonged in the 'Chuko-meibutsu' category. They were also determined by the "Unshu Meibutsu cho" and kuniyaki chaire which were loved by Enshu became central to this.

[Original Japanese]