Silk (tsumugi [pongee])
Stenciled and hand colored

This kimono depicts a number of chaire, or tea caddies, nestled in their shifuku, or pouches. It is interesting that a kimono focusing on tea is made of tsumugi silk. Revered Momoyama period tea master Sen no Rikyu changed tea from a very luxurious ceremony to a very minimalist event. For this reason, he favored tsumugi, which lacks the luster and smooth flat texture of silk, and appears cottony, rustic, and humble.

The ground color of the kimono itself is tea colored, continuing the allusion. Tea, which originated in China, was initially highly sought after and very expensive. It was stored in ceramic jars, and the jars were kept in pouches of expensive material, in keeping with the tea’s value. The knots atop the pouches are not random. There are specific ways to tie the cords.

This kimono appears to have been stenciled, but the individual colors of the pouches appear to have been brushed in individually. Below are three separate repeats of the same pouch. All are nearly identical, but not quite, which would reflect the hand painting.

In his book Nihon no Dento Shikisai (Traditional Colors of Japan, published by Kyoto Shoin), Seiki Nagasaki identifies over forty shades of color ending in the word -cha (tea), such as yanagicha (willow tea), uguisucha (nightingale tea), ebicha (shrimp tea), and rikyu cha (named after Sen no Rikyu, although no evidence links the color to the tea master). These colors are generally shades of green, brown, yellow and gray, but can be other colors too (pink, for example) if they contain chalky, smoky, cloudy or opaque qualities. Following Nihon no Dento Shikisai, the kimono shown here comes closest to kuwacha (literally mulberry tea, translated as the color maize) and kimirucha (literally yellow sea pine tea, translated as seaweed yellow).