Tea caddy cover (shifuku)
Silk, asa

When tea was first adopted by Japanese aristocrats, the drinking of tea was treated with great ceremony and gravity. Tea was stored in beautiful ceramic jars, and the jars themselves were covered in cloth befitting the gravity of the tea ceremony. Tea was imported from China, which was then considered the source of all things cultural and refined. In the same way, the best cloth was thought to come from China, and was avidly collected by connoisseurs.

Some of the material imported at that time was called “meibutsugire” – celebrated cloth – by the Japanese, and was made of intricate damasks and brocades. Some tea caddies were stored in fragments of meibutsugire that were sewn together in a patchwork manner. This shifuku, which fits in the palm of the hand, follows that tradition.

The materials that comprise this patchwork shifuku are most likely all Japanese.

The only exception is the material around the opening of the shifuku, whose designs are rendered not in damask but in plain weave with katazome (stenciling).  For more on meibutsugire click here, and for more on tea ceremony click here.