(Mitate (見立て) - topicsから)
Sen no Rikyu using his outstanding aesthetic sense, decided the form of tea utensils and also brought into chanoyu objects which were not originally made for it. This was called ‘mitate’. The word ‘mitate’ means ‘to see an object, not in the form that was originally intended for it, but as another thing’, and was originally a literary term used in describing the technique of writing kanshi (Chinese poems) and Japanese waka. Rikyu really brought this spirit of ‘mitate’, which came from literary theory, to life by using everyday household articles as utensils for chanoyu. For example, there are anecdotes of a gourd that was originally a water flask being used as a flower container and of the entrance to a ship being used as the nijiriguchi (crawl-through entrance) for a tea room.
Not only Rikyu, but tea practitioners of that time, went against the general trend of using Chinese utensils as tea bowls, bringing in tea bowls used in everyday life from the Korean peninsular for use as wabi-cha tea bowls. Things that came into Japan from the trade with southern countries were also used as tea utensils which could perhaps be called ‘mitate’. Bringing something into chanoyu in this way, to experimentally add a fresh and tasteful element is the spirit of ‘mitate’. In modern times Buddhist art was quickly taken into the tea room and also ceramics and glassware from all over the world, as well as metal goods, became tea utensils through the process of ‘mitate’.
In our enjoyment of the experience of chanoyu and the innovations that we make, this spirit of ‘mitate’ could be said to be the root of chanoyu. For example, while on a trip one might be looking at the traditional local craft works and wondering if something could be used as a lid rest or an incense container. Thinking about this while taking a walk is one of the pleasures of travelling and is also the pleasure of a life in chanoyu. The spirit of ‘mitate’ which is part of an exceptional aesthetic awareness, can also give life to traditional crafts and industries.
(Omotesenke Fushin’an - http://www.omotesenke.jp/english/chanoyu/6_3_1.html)