Furuta Shigenari (古田重然)

Shigenari FURUTA was a Japanese warrior who lived during the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States). As a tea ceremony master, he is widely known as Oribe FURUTA. His common name was Sasuke. His first given name was Keian. His name 'Oribe' as a tea ceremony master originated from the fact that he was awarded the rank of Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade, Director of Weaving Office, in the prime of his life. While following the footsteps of SEN no Rikyu, who brought the art of tea ceremony to perfection, he also developed a lively and creative style of art and created an art trend known as the Oribe style in pottery, architecture and gardening during the Azuchi-Momoyama period.

Brief Personal History

Shigenari (or Oribe) FURUTA was born in 1544 as a son of Shigesada FURUTA, a tea ceremony master (known by his Buddhist name Kannami of tea-server, he later renamed himself Shigemasa SHUZEN as he returned to secular life), who was also a younger brother of the Lord of the Yamaguchi-jo Castle in Motosu-gun County, Mino Province (whose name is believed to have been Shigeyasu FURUTA). Pursuing a career as a warrior, Oribe also acquired a sophisticated taste for the tea ceremony under his father. He is believed to have been adopted by his uncle.

Shigenari became Nobunaga ODA's retainer when Nobunaga attacked Mino Province in 1567. According to a source, he joined Nobunaga's army when Nobunaga visited Kyoto in the following year and fought in Nobunaga's battle in Settsu Province. In 1569, Shigenari married Sen, a younger sister of Kiyohide NAKAGAWA (the Lord of Ibaraki-jo Castle in Settsu Province). Kiyohide was higher in rank than Oribe at the time, which suggests that Oribe was in the favor of Nobunaga.

In 1576, Oribe became an administrator of Kamikuze no sho (now, Minami-ku Ward of Kyoto City), Otokuni-gun District, Yamashiro Province. He subsequently joined the army of Hideyoshi HASHIBA (later Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI) during the attack on Harima Province and the army of Mitsuhide AKECHI during the attack on Tanba Province, making a successful career as a war leader despite his small stipend of 300 koku.

After Nobunaga's death, Shigenari served Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, and in 1585, when Hideyoshi was appointed as the Chief Adviser to the Emperor, Shigenari was awarded an official title Oribe-no-Kami, appointed to Jugoinoge; Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade and given a territory worth 35,000 koku in Nishioka, Yamashiro Province. He subsequently joined Hideyoshi's army in the battles in Kyushu and Odawara, and fought overseas to conquer Korea in the Bunroku War.

Oribe's name began appearing in letters written by SEN no Rikyu starting in 1582. He is believed to have become acquainted with Rikyu around this time and joined his tea ceremony group as one of his disciples; among whom he later came to be known as one of Rikyu Shichitetsu (Rikyu's seven closest disciples). When Rikyu was discharged from his duties (preliminary step of committing seppuku) by Hideyoshi in 1591, Oribe and Tadaoki HOSOKAWA, who were also among Rikyu Shichitetsu, had a farewell meeting with Rikyu boldly and fearlessly, while Hideyoshi's retainers who were acquainted with Rikyu avoided meeting him in fear of incurring Hideyoshi's wrath. After Rikyu died, Oribe succeeded to Rikyu's position as the tea ceremony master of the Toyotomi family. He is reported to have yielded his position as the head of the family to Shigehiro, his heir, and retired from office in 1598.

In the Battle of Sekigahara in October 1600, Oribe fought for Ieyasu TOKUGAWA of the Eastern squad. However, he had a rebellious spirit just like his teacher, Rikyu, and often disobeyed the orders of the Tokugawa shogunate. By this time, Oribe had established extensive connections with the imperial court, court nobles, temples and shrines, as well as business groups through tea ceremonies, wielding great influence even on feudal lords around the country. Some people believe that he gradually became to be seen by Tokugawa government groups as having influence that might undermine their power.

During the Battle of Osaka in 1615, Muneyoshi KIMURA, who served Oribe as his tea ceremony master, was arrested by Katsushige ITAKURA of the Kyoto deputy on charge of having organized a conspiracy in collaboration with the Toyotomi clan to set fire to Kyoto (Some people believe that he intended to assassinate Ieyasu by taking advantage of the disturbance caused by the fire). Oribe, the lord of Kimura, was also suspected of communicating secretly with the Toyotomi clan and was ordered to commit seppuku on July 6, after Osaka-jo Castle was burnt down, on charge of harboring Kunimatsu TOYOTOMI who was an orphan of Hideyori TOYOTOMI after the war. Oribe obeyed the order and committed seppuku without making any explanation. He died at the age of 72. His legitimate son, Shigehiro, was ordered to commit seppuku along with Oribe. Muneyoshi KIMURA was also executed. Oribe's second son, Shigenao (Toshitsune MAEDA's retainer), and his third son, Shigehiro (Mitsumasa IKEDA's retainer) committed seppuku two days later, on July 8. His fourth son, Shigeyuki, who served Hideyori TOYOTOMI as his retainer, escaped his enemies and committed seppuku on July 19 in front of the graves of his father and brothers in Kosho-ji Temple. His fifth son, Shigehisa, died in the Summer Siege of Osaka, causing the direct line of Oribe family to perish completely.

Oribe's tea ceremony art
Faithful to Rikyu's teaching that one should develop one's original style, Oribe established a style of dynamic 'aesthetic of discord' contrastive to the serene beauty of the style of Rikyu, and created a tea ceremony school based on his style. He is believed to have hired a large number of craftsmen and pottery workers to have them create works of art, having been the founder of the Oribe-style earthenware and the Oribe school (however, there are few remaining documents that show his relationship with Oribe yaki). The tea ceremony room known as "Ennan", an important cultural property, which he handed over to his brother-in-law Kenchu YABUCHI, is one of the tea ceremony rooms that represents his style. The bamboo tea spoon created by Oribe, sharply pointed just like Japanese swords, remind us of the brave warrior tea ceremony master who lived during the Sengoku Period. His calligraphy strokes was characteristic of slanting to the left, which Tadachika KUWATA believes to have affected the calligraphy of Koetsu HONAMI. He wrote the tea ceremony book, 'Oribe Hyakkajo'.

Those who are believed to have been Oribe's disciples are Masakazu (or Enshu) KOBORI, Shigeyasu UEDA (or Soko), Hidetada TOKUGAWA and Arishige KANAMORI.


In the Mirai Hall in Gifu City, Gifu Prefecture, there is a permanent space for the display of Oribe Award-winning art products.

[Original Japanese]