Natsume (a container for powdered tea) (Chaki [tea utensil]) (棗 (茶器))

Natsume is a kind of tea utensil and a lacquered wooden container with a lid used to hold powdered green tea. The name, "natsume," is said to come from the natsume or jujube fruit, which this container is said to resemble.

Today, the earthenware chaire (tea container) for powdered green tea is called koicha-ki (tea utensil for thick tea) while the lacquer ware chaire is called usucha-ki (tea utensil for light tea), but natsume is often used as the generic name for a container for usucha (See the item for usucha-ki for its history.)

The first natsume is said to have been one that Goro HANEDA, a nurishi (maker of lacquer ware and handiworks), presented to Juko, although this theory is questioned by researchers. This is because there is no historical document to support this, even though several old natsumes that are said to have been made by Goro HANEDA can be found in the Fujita Museum of Art and others. There is also a natsume that Joo TAKENO style kept, but this is also questioned by researchers.

Contrarily, in "Kakumeiki" (The Diary of Josho HORIN) in 1643, there was a description that branches of plum blossoms were arranged in a natsume, which is said to show an evidence that natsume was also used for other than a tea utensil, until the early Edo period. Based on this theory, the description that the natsume appeared in a tea book "Genryu Chawa" (tea book written by Chikushin YABUNOUCHI) in the Genroku period, as derived from a wooden hikiya canister owned by chajin (master of the tea ceremony), has also lost its credibility. Based on these, Tokugo UCHIDA speculates that natsume may be derived from a kind of lacquered containers for medicine as well as a "yaro" tea caddy.

One reliable record was the one found in "Record of the Tea Ceremony at Tennojiya," that recorded a chakai (tea party) held by Sotatsu TSUDA in October 5, 1564, and it is known that this was the first time a natsume was used as a tea utensil, much later than other wooden cha-ki (See the item for usucha-ki.)
After that, the natsume of SEN no Rikyu style was started to be used among chajin of Rikyu school, and it became popular as a tea utensil in the Edo Period.

Originally, natsume was finished in plain black lacquer and, from its non-decorative design, we can see the backlash against the existing Chanoyu (the tea ceremony), that valued "excellent" chaire based on the judgment from a point of view. The basic shape is the "Rikyū shape" (Rikyū-gata), which are a large "natsume" canister, a medium "natsume" canister, and a small "natsume" canister, but there are many other variations, too.

However, as natsume gradually became to be used with chaire, it began to have gorgeous makie (Japanese lacquer sprinkled with gold or silver powder) decoration suited for shoin kazari (decoration of shoin [one of Japan's most important residential architectural styles, established in the Momoyama era] rooms and buildings) (The natsume with makie decoration considered to be made in the Muromachi Period has been preserved, but this needs to assume the possibility that originally it was not used as a tea utensil.)

[Original Japanese]