Japanese Ceramics are some of the finest in the world. The Japanese have a long tradition of appreciating exquisite pottery, and many unique ceramics are made in almost every area of Japan. Unlike China, where fine ceramics were made to be looked at but never touched, the Japanese use good quality ceramics in their homes and at every meal, because it is believed that a beautiful dish enhances the flavor of the food and the joy of eating. At any given Japanese meal a variety of different style ceramic serving plates will be used, rather than using a matched set. This is also believed to enhance the experience of eating delicious food, reflected by a common proverb that says, "Me de Taberu"; "Eat with the Eyes (First, then the Palate!)

In our store we carry a fine selection of antique, vintage, and contemporary Japanese ceramics. We have an ever-changing selection of Tea Bowls for the Tea Ceremony, which include Raku pottery, Hagi, Bizen, Shigaraki and others. We also have a few superb ceramics that were made by National Living Treasures such as Hamada Shoji, and Tatsuzo Shimaoka, who were responsible for making famous the folk art pottery of Mashiko, now known throughout Japan for its unpretentious yet stunning ceramics.

We hope you enjoy the ceramics on our website, but remember that a photo can't convey the extraordinary depth of color in the glazes, or the wide variety of textures in the clay. For that you have to visit our store and see for yourself!

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Ceramics and Tea Bowls

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Hakeme Tea Bowl

This is an old Tea Ceremony bowl with a "Hakeme" brush stroke design, both on the inside of the bowl and the outside. "Hakeme" means "Brush Stroke", and was often used in the works that came out of the pottery town of Mashiko. While we don't know where this bowl was originally made, the dating is somewhere between the late 19th century and early 20th century. This bowl has a tremendous amount of character, and the Patina shows that it was well used and loved.




Hamada Shoji Vase

This exquisite vase was made by Hamada Shoji, a potter/artisan in the village of Mashiko, who was one of the first such craftsmen to be awarded the title of National Living Treasure. Although most Japanese craftsmen never signed the craft that they produced, with high quality pieces of art a Paulownia box was made for the piece, and the box was signed by the artist or a family member, if the artist had passed away.

This Paulownia Box was signed by Shinsaku Hamada, Shoji's son who is carrying on the family tradition of making pottery in Mashiko.

Mashiko Ware is a traditional pottery that was established in the town of Mashiko, in Tochigi Prefecture, over 150 years ago. The ceramics produced here were simple household articles meant to be used on a daily basis, and Mashiko pottery because famous when Hamada Shoji settled there and eventually became known as Japan's most famous potter and National Living Treasure. Mashiko ware is known for its folk art quality, calleld  Mingei, which literally means "craft of the people". This became a national movement when noted artists such as Hamada, Soetsu Yanagi, and Kawai Kanjiro became concerned with preserving thre traditional art of rustic beauty in everyday objects. A piece of Mingei folk art was well made, and strong enough to survive a lifetime of use. Yet Mingei pieces were often astoundingly beautiful in their grace and simplicity, while also possessing great humbleness. They were hardly ever signed by the artist. The best of traditional Mashiko ceramics evokes this grace and beauty, which has made it a favorite pottery throughout Japan.



Red Raku Tea Bowl

Red Raku Style Tea Bowl for Tea Ceremony; early 20th century.

4.5" wide by 3" tall. Stamped "Raku" on bottom.

Raku tea bowls done by the Raku family are extremely expensive and hard to find, and there is a waiting list for customers who desire a new Raku tea bowl, but waiting can sometimes take years. The Raku family also gives permission to designated master potters to use the Raku stamp on their Raku style tea bowls, and these are more widely available. A Black or Red Raku tea bowl is the quintessential tea bowl for the Tea Ceremony, originally produced in accordance with the instructions of Sen no Rikyu, the most important tea master in Japan (1522-1591). Rikyu was the tea master largely responsible for the simplification of the Tea Ceremony aesthetic, and the aesthetic of Wabi-Sabi. Rikyu was a maverick in his day, and often at odds with his most famous tea ceremony disciple, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the military general who ruled Japan. For years they had a turbulent relationship, and due to Hideyoshi's grandiose ego, he ordered Sen no Rikyu to commit suicide for some imagined offense. At the age of 70 Rikyu committed Harakiri, after hosting a magnificent tea ceremony for his friends and disciples.

Raku ware is hand-thrown and fired quickly, usually 5 to 40 minutes of firing at temperature of 1562 degrees F. to 2282 degrees. Various iron-rich glazes are covered with a transparent lead raku glaze, and when the glaze has melted the bowls are extracted red hot from the kiln for rapid cooling.

Raku pottery has always been a multi-generational endeavor. One set of potters prepares the clay for the next generation to use; the clay is often left to "sleep" for 70 years. So each generation of potters is actually working with clay prepared by the previous generation. Nowadays Raku pottery made by the Raku family is created in a small kiln, at a snail's pace. Only one piece of Raku pottery is fired each month, creating intense demand for an expensive but exquisite piece of pottery.




Hagi Bowl for Tea Ceremony

Mid 20th century Tea Bowl; 5.5" wide by 3.5" tall.

Hagi-yaki is a high-fired, glazed stoneware that has been produced in the village of Hagi and its surroundings for the last 400 years. The area has produced Hagi ceramics almost exclusively for tea ware, up to the last century. Hagi pottery is often characterized by delicate glazes in subtle blues, earth- tone pinks, and cream colors. With Hagi ceramics, the physical use of these tea wares actually causes the colors to change and deepen over time, creating a much desired patina, deriving from oil in the fingertips.



Hare's Fur Tea Bowl

16th to 17th century; 5" wide by 2 and 3/4" tall.

This is a very old Japanese Tea Bowl done with a glaze called "Hare's Fur". This amazing glaze forms brown rivulets on black, imitating the coloration of a rabbits coat of fur. This type of ceramic was originally produced in China from the 11th to 12th century, and the Japanese admired it so much they created their own version for the Tea Ceremony.



Satsuma Tea Bowl

4.5" wide by 3.5" tall; 20th century.

This subtly glazed Tea Bowl was done in a Satsuma Kiln, by Yutaka Nagata.



Kiseto Style Tea Bowl

Old Kiseto-style pottery Tea Bowl for Tea Ceremony.

19th century to early 20th century.

Stamped "Kotobuki" on bottom." Kotobuki" means Long Life.




Raku-zan Tea Bowl

Fine old Raku-style Tea Bowl for Tea Ceremony, probably mid to late 19th century. Stamped "Raku-zan" on the bottom.




Edo Period Shigaraki Bowl

Early to mid- Edo period; approximately 200 years old.

Early Shigaraki Bowl, probably used to serve food. This is an incredible bowl which has many different layers of glaze and texture; must be seen in person to be appreciated.

Approximately 7" wide by 3" tall.




Hirotsugu Kawai Bowl

Bowl by Hirotsugu Kawai, son of Kawai Kanjiro.

This bowl was done by the son of Kawai Kanjiro, one of the most famous potters in 20th century Japan. Kawai was also one of the founders of the Mingei "Folk Art" movement, along with Hamada Shoji and Yanagi Soetsu. Kawai Kanjiro collected Folk Art from all over the world in an effort to preserve traditional crafts, and used traditional techniques in his own pottery while at the same time refusing to be tied down to form or color. The Japanese government tried to bestow upon Kawai the title of National Living Treasure, but he refused it.

His son Hirotsugu's pottery was enormously influenced by his father, including his unusual use of colors. The blue of this bowl comes as close to a real Indigo blue as is possible in a ceramic.

8.5" wide by 2.25" tall.