Introduction to Japanese table ware

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Unlike western tradition  Japanese table ware is a very refined and significant subject. It is so detailed that it requires one to really write a book alone about this.

Western table ware which is mainly white and consists basically of dinner plate, side plate, soup dish, salad bowl etc Japanese eating vessels consists of Bamboo, laquer, porcelain, earthen ware, natural leaves and other natural twigs depending on season and also glass.

Glass art has a relatively short history in Japan. The Japanese have historically viewed the transparent, hard material as foreign and somewhat exotic, and they have only recently made utilitarian glass part of everyday life. The Portuguese introduced glassblowing to Japanese craftsmen in the 18th century and, although Nagasaki glassblowers made highly prized vessels, larger-scale production only sprang up in the 19th century, laying the groundwork for top-quality cut glass in the early 1900s.

There have been influences from china like porcelain and other table ware’s that then were adapted to Japanese requirements and aesthetics. During the Haian period of Japan there were a lot a Chinese influences that then were adapted to its japanese cultural feelings and expressions developing also there own unique techniques.

Indeed how the vessels all have been found, introduced and developed though history in Japan is absolutely fascinating.

The eating sequence of a basic western meal would be a starter main and dessert were else japanese dinning consists of many more dishes in smaller quantity’s.

This is just very basic comparent to just introduce this subject and to get a basic understanding what the basic differences are between western plating tradition and Japanese.

When I am talking about japanese table ware I am referring to the table ware used in the Kyoto area.

I have worked in 3 star michelin restaurants in Kyoto and Tokyo that have firm roots in Kyoto and whilst working there you see the intense relationship between the chef, the seasons, the product and the plates and dishes used.

Just like the products are completely seasonal so are the dishes. In the summer lighter table ware is used to reflect a more delicate cooling summery feeling. Also the kind of leaves used are those that culturally will invoke and enhance your senses of the season.

The table ware itself always consists of bamboo, glass  porcelain, laquer and earthen ware and some leaves or natural vessel basically however the way the colours or how they are made differ in the way that it will fit to each season. Now this is the key to understanding the subject of the japanese table ware – that itself it contains also some spirit of cultural and historic and natural elements.

Working in Kyoto with these incredible chefs I have had the pleasure to see the chefes personal collections of incredible tableware. The chefs will have different vessels for different occasions, seasons and events specifically.

The chefs often collect vessels that are hundreds of years old which is only a set of 4 bowls that are the same and for a different table they will use a deferent set from his collection.

They will also have relations with various artist of there choice that will produce very specific and special pieces for them.

The chef of course would use the very special dishes for very specific occasions and customers and generally would have a mix of antique pieces ans well as new.

Generally in the west as well as in Japan the VIP tables would have a special selection.

Pottery is one of the most refined arts of Japan and I recommend anyone to visit an Artist and even take a class to just experience how special the techniques and artistry is.

In Kyoto there are many potter Artist and everyone has there own unique speciality.

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For a very serious Kyoto chef the choice of what table ware he would use reflects his artistic and authentic level as much as the food does. This is a very Japanese cultural aspect of appreciating every detail of a dinning experience. Usually a dinning of its highest calibre in Japan Kyoto can be 5 hours plus. The dinner does not just eat but it is a work that happens between the dinner and the chef.

Fow me personally just laying eyes of the fine japanese ceramics, especially tea ceremony ceramics brings a peace and very special sense to my inner hart and soul. For me the beauty of this is so hard to describe. I just want to explain that the ceramic process becomes so devine because it is a perfect relation ship between man and nature and if you like something devine and it expresses itself when the ceramists puts it in the kiln that is were the magic happens as something that emerges after it is burned is like a photograph of divinity and man at its best, that the ceramists did not have any power of as to how it will come out – that is the enigma of ceramics. It has a presence!

I find it healing, earthing, and balancing to see such ceramics and can find myself just looking at it loosing myself it it in the most positive way.

The tea ceremony tradition is strongly reflected in all aspects of Kaiseki and very much so in the table ware to.

Here are some examples:

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CHAWAN (Tea Bowls)
The chawan, or tea bowl, is, of all the tea utensils, the most familiar to Westerners and yet its significance is rarely appreciated. In its primary role as the direct connection between host and guest, it can transcend its function and take on a spirit of its own. As these bowls are used over time they mature and improve. They are ”functional art” objects which are meant to be held in one’s hand. Their tactile qualities are but one element in terms of the appreciation or connisuership of a chawan. How they function is just as important as how they look. One of their most crucial elements is the base, a part of the bowl which cannot be examined without picking up the piece & turning it upside down. A few other crucial features are the drinking lip, how it is formed as well as glazed, and the “chadamari” or “mikomi”, the inside lower half of the chawan where the tea is actually whipped and where the tea then settles when one is finished drinking.

chaireCHAIRE (Tea Containers)
Chaire are known in English as tea caddy or tea container. These small yet precisely crafted jars are used exclusively to hold the thick, highest quality powdered green tea known as koicha. Among the various ceramic utensils used for Chanoyu (Japanese Tea Ceremony), chaire have the highest ranking, a major factor influencing their high price despite their small size.

mizusashi2MIZUSASHI (Water Containers)
Mizusashi are fresh water containers, and are one of the main utensils found in a typical tea “arrangement.” It’s function is to hold fresh water which is drawn with a bamboo ladle to the chawan where it is then used to clean the chasen (bamboo whisk) after it has been used to make tea. The same ladle is also used to draw cold water from the container to replenish the iron kettle after hot water has been drawn from it to rinse and warm the chawan as well as make the actual tea.


Hachi (Serving Bowls for Japanese Sweets or Kaiseki meal dishes)

Hanaire (Flower Vases of various sizes & shapes, including hanging types)

Chaki  (Small containers, often with a wooden lid but no brocade bag, used for usucha, [thin tea])

Futaoki (Kettle Lid rest)

Kogo (small Incense Container used in the winter months, Nov.- April)

Kensui  (Waste water Container)

Tokkuri (Sake Bottles)

Guinomi (Sake Cups)

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“I have dedicated the past twenty-four years working to contribute to the field of chadogu in Japan and throughout the world,” Milgrim wrote for an exhibition in San Francisco last year. He continued,“Using traditional materials and techniques, with one eye on the past and the other looking towards the future, my goal is to create works of art with a timeless quality. Works that simultaneously maintain their inherent function as chadogu, yet also capture a beauty that can transcend geographical and cultural boundaries and be appreciated by the uninitiated as well as the tea practitioner.”

A Potter from America by the name of RICHARD MILGRIM has a fascinating story as to how he became a ceramists in Kyoto. Through looking at his life we can look and learn, to have some insight into the world of japanese ceramics at its highest level.

The techniques and glazes used in Japan are so uniquely different to anywhere else in the world and are considered as some of the most refined art works in history.

Here is a short introduction to Richard Milgrim:

A native of New York, Milgrim first visited Japan in 1977 as a college student and traveled throughout the country, researching ceramics and Japanese culture. After receiving a degree in Fine Arts and Japanese Studies from Antioch College, Milgrim returned to Japan in 1979 on a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship and simultaneously began a dedicated study of both Japanese pottery and the Japanese tea ceremony. He entered an apprenticeship with Iwabuchi Shigeya, Master Potter in Kyoto while also studying at the headquarters of the Urasenke Tradition.  Milgrim’s first one-man show was held in Kyoto in 1981. He then went on to study with Master Potters in the traditional styles of Hagi, Bizen and Mino over the next 3 years. In 1984 Milgrim acquired an abandoned house in the village of Yotsuya (near Kyoto) and built his own kiln. Dr. Sen Soshitsu, then the 15th generation Grand Master of the Urasenke Tea Tradition, named the kiln Richado-Gama, a truly rare honor as the Chinese characters are not only pronounced the same as Richard’s name in English, but each of them is inseparably related to who and what Milgrim is and does.

RICHADO-GAMA , name of Milgrim’s kiln in Japan
RI  from Rikyu (1521-1591 AD), Dr. Sen’s ancestor, considered the father of the modern day tea ceremony
CHA , meaning tea
DO , meaning earth or clay
GAMA , meaning kiln

Since 1985 Milgrim has exhibited extensively throughout Japan and worldwide.  In 2000 he established a second home & studio in Concord, Massachusetts. Over the past decade he has been “commuting ” between the U.S. & Japan expanding traditions in the field of “Chatou” (tea ceramics).

Three months to complete from planning. Documentary is not supposed to not chase scene scene , the number of days it takes absolutely. You have to finish edit from a large shooting data comes.The work of the first issue of TAKE SHOOT formed, I took a picture in full-length videos EOS MOVIE potter Sato烓氏. Canon 7D · 60D, 24-70mm lens used equipment is F2.8L, other stabilizer, shotgun microphone, pin microphone, compact IC recorder, Sony HD monitor shutter, tripod, PC set. Please see the earthen vessel creative process of ceramic artist Sato烓氏please.
Shooting / editing Kojima Shinya, steel / progression Yas friend Yasuhiro, Director / shooting Kazuhiko Yamaguch

Japanese master artists, Tsujimura Shiro and Suzuki Goro along with American artists Richard Milgrim and Jeff Shapiro, demonstrated throwing the tea bowl while discussing its aesthetic and philosophical relevance to the tea ceremony. This event was one feature of a weekend of events celebrating the tea bowl (March 12 – 14th) in conjunction with the Museum of Fine Arts, Japan Society – Boston and the Lacoste Gallery, Concord, MA