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Tea utensils collected by Shigenori Tomioka
Tomioka Shigenori Collection Gallery
“Tea Utensils” Exhibition

Kyoko Asai
Professor at the Aizu Museum

After the holidays in May, Tomioka Shigenori Collection Gallery will hold an exhibition titled “Tea Utensils.” Tomioka often offered a tea ceremony to entertain his guests. It is said that he was not very keen on using many utensils for the tea ceremony, as his motto was “it is fine just to use tea bowls and a bamboo whisk.” As if to prove it, his collection has about 50 tea bowls including the ones imported from old China and Korean Peninsula as well as the ones made in Japan. Tea bowls occupy a relatively large ratio of the collection, as about one third of his entire collection (900 items) is ceramics, out of which about one sixth is tea bowls.

His collection also includes a small number of tea ceremony utensils. For this exhibition, we will display tea bowls and other utensils for a tea ceremony, artifacts such as ceramics, calligraphy works of Zen monks and paintings from the Edo period.

[Tea bowl (chawan)]

Akaraku chawan named Hatsuchigiri

Chawan means tea bowls.It is used for tea ceremony. In the Japanese art of tea ceremonies, while hanging scrolls and tea containers are considered to have high status, tea bowls are the utensils moving between the host and guest, so tea bowls are the center of the act of drinking tea. Based on their origin of production, they are called Karamono chawan (old China bowl), Wamono chawan (Japanese bowl) and Korai chawan (old Korean bowl), as they were made in China, Japan and the Korean peninsula. Our collection has the total of 54 bowls: 6 items, 7 bowls from China, 26 items, 27 bowls from Japan, and 20 bowls from the Korean peninsula. The bowls from China are mostly Nogime Tenmoku and Yuteki Tenmoku, which are used to drink thick tea. The Japanese bowls include Karatsusomon chawan, Kuroraku chawan named “Yaburemado“, which was said to have been made by Chojiro, Akaraku chawan named “Hatsuchigiri“, which was made by Sozen Hisada (1647 - 1707), Kiseto chawan named “Kikugasane“, and Hagi chawan named “Hakuro“. The Korean bowls include Katade, Irabo, Amamori and Totoya. As shown in the picture, by the label on the box of the Akaraku chawan, we can infer that the name “Hatsuchigiri” comes from a poem of Kaga no Chiyo: “The first trial of persimmon, without knowing if it is sweet or bitter.” The knowledge of the origin of the name helps us imagine that the color of the bowl expresses ripe persimmon on the clear blue autumn sky. (It is unfortunate that the exhibition is not held in autumn.) The green color in the middle of the bowl also adds charm to this tea bowl.

[Tea container (Chaire)]

Chaire is a small porcelain pot that contains powdered green tea for thick tea. It has an ivory lid,and the bottom of the lid is covered with gold leaf. They are wrapped in silk bags called Shifuku. Tea containers that have been cherished and handed down from long ago have Shifuku made of special fabrics, so Shifuku are also the objects appreciation of art. While tea containers are produced in China and Japan, like tea bowls, antiques from China were highly esteemed (unfortunately, the tea caddies in our collection are all made in Japan). From the Momoyama to the Edo period, tea containers were equally important as a country or a castle. They are highly esteemed tea utensils, next to hanging scrolls(kakefuku). In this exhibition, three tea containers will be displayed, “Chosenkaratsu chaire named Tamabuchi”, “Bizen chaire, Inbete” and “Ubagafutokoro mimitsuki chaire, Seto” .

[Tea scoop (Chashaku)]

Bamboo tea scoop made by Mitsuhiro Karasumaru

Chashaku is a spoon used to scoop powdered green tea from tea containers to tea bowls. They are usually made of bamboo, but some of them are made of ivory, wood, lacquer-ware, tortoiseshell, silver or ceramics. They are generally about 18 cm in length. The tip is called Tsuyu. The handle is called Kiritome. And the part to scoop the powdered tea is called Kaisaki. Most of them have Fushi(knot) in the middle. It is believed that the first bamboo tea scoop was used by Juko and there was no Fushi. Then, Joo Takeno placed Fushi on Kiritome, and Rikyu placed Fushi in the middle of the scoop. Based on the position of Fushi, the scoops are categorized in Shin, Gyo or So. The most commonly used tea scoops have Fushi in the middle and belong to “So”. The tea scoops of “Shin” or “Gyo” are used only on special occasions. The storage tube to keep in the tea scoop is mainly made of bamboo which has a plug made of cedar wood. Storage tubes that of the shaved off bamboo - sheath are called Shinzutsu, and the ones with the sheath are called Souzutsu. The tube that was made by the same person as the scoop and has the maker’s autograph is called Tomozutsu and the one that was made by a different person is called Kaezutsu. In the exhibition, we will display tubes made by Ujisato Gamo (1556 - 1595), Mitsuhiro Karasumaru (1579 - 1638) and Fusai Sugiki (1628 - 1708) as well as the tea scoop made by Hochiku (tea scoop maker who lived in the same period as Rikyu) with the calligraphy of Kogetu Sogan on the tube. Many people tell us that they do not know how to appreciate the tea scoops. Even if it is a simple bamboo scoop, it may raise your interest when you look at the entire scoop and then pay attention to differences in the details. Please keep in mind that the maker may be someone from a samurai family, someone from a noble family, a tea expert or a tea scoop maker.

[Kettle (Kama)]

The kettles used for tea ceremonies are made of cast iron. They have lids called Tomobuta or Karakanebuta. Some kettles have patterns on the side or top. Two rings (Kantsuki) are attached to the side. The shape varies such as Shinnarigama. The kettle in this exhibition is called Yakimeshigama, because of is triangle shape. The pull-tab on the kettle is modeled after the Matsutake mushroom, and the rings are modeled after the Matsutake mushroom and pine needles that look like a bridge of a koto (Japanese harp). It is said that they are the favorite patterns of Senso (1622 - 1697, the fourth son of Sotan), and he came up with the idea when he was looking for Matsutake mushrooms with Kanchi on Mt. Utatsu in Kanazawa. The exhibited work has the inscription, “Kettle maker, San-emon Kigoshi”, written in ink on the back of the lid of the box. San-emon Kigoshi is the first disciple of Kanchi Miyazaki, and his name was succeeded for several generations. By the inscription on the box, we cannot tell exactly which San-emon Kigoshi made it. However, we can tell that this kettle was made from the late 17th century to the early 18th century.

[Water jar (Mizusashi)]

Mizusashi is a cold water container. This is used for to add water to kettles or to rinse tea bowls and tea whisks. They are made of metal, ceramic, wood or bamboo. Jars or pots that were made in various places are sometimes used as pitchers. The Water jar in this exhibition are “Hakuyu katsusai sojiko” (Jishuyo, Northern Sung Dynasty) and “Kokuyu chokamon urigata sojiko” (Southern Sung Dynasty). With the black lacquered lids, they are used as water jars.

[Vase (Hanaike)]

Vase for flowers. Vases are made of metal, ceramic, bamboo or wood. Depending on seasons and characteristics of each tea ceremony, different vases are selected. One of the characteristics of Tomioka’s ceramic collection is that it has many large objects of Ming and Qing dynasties, and there are only a small number of pots that can be used as vases. In this exhibition, we will show a vase with noble atmosphere “Seijibotan karakusa monhei” (Ryusenyo, from Southern Sung Dynasty to Yuan Dynasty) and “Gosai sangimon hanaike” (Tenkeiakae, end of Ming Dynasty) on which the pattern of the fortune telling results of I Ching sticks is painted.

[Bowl (Hachi)]

As a utensil for Kaiseki cuisine or as a plate to serve main sweets, we selected two bowls: one from China and the other from Japan. “Seikaryuenzu suhamagatabachi” (old dyeing, end of Ming Dynasty) has an interesting shape with old dyeing style and “Kisetoyohobachi” (Momoyama period) is a bowl with four corners that have characteristic internal angles.

[Incense container (Kōgō)]

Hishiushi kōgō

It is a container (with a lid) to keep in the incense. During the charcoal setting procedure of a tea ceremony, it can be carried on a tray. It is sometimes placed in a charcoal scuttle or is used as a decoration on a shelf. Furthermore, without regard for the charcoal setting procedure, only an incense container can be displayed in the teahouse. Although they are palm-size small containers, there are great variations in their production regions, materials, designs and methods. From May to October, the wooden or lacquered incense containers are used, and from November to April, ceramic incense containers are used. In both seasons, incense containers made of shells, metal or ivory can be used. In 1855, “Katamonokōgō ichiran” was made. In this exhibition, we will display “Seikahyokei kōgō” and “Seikahishiushi kōgō” which were made at the end of the Ming Dynasty, and “Karatsubundogata kōgō” whose lid has a picture of a branch of plum painted with iron glaze.

[Incense burner (Kōro)]

It is a utensil to burn incense. It was originally a Buddhist altar fitting. During a tea ceremony, it is used as a decoration in the alcove. In this exhibition, we will show “Gosaishishibuta kōro” (Koakae, Ming Dynasty, Important art) and “Seijihakamagoshi kōro” (Ryusenyo, Southern Sung Dynasty), both of which were made in China.

[Hanging scroll (Kakefuku)]

Sochin Kokei

There are many types of hanging scrolls for decorating the alcove of a tearoom, but it is often used calligraphy works of Zen monks related to Daitoku-ji temple. In this exhibition, we will display “Zuishojikaienshukuge” by Soki Shumpo (1409 - 1499), “Tōkinoge” by Sohō Takuan (1573 - 1645), “Geju” by Sochin Kokei (1532 - 1597).

Although we could not introduce all of our tea ceremony utensils, we display art works of various regions and periods, mainly ceramics, as well as calligraphy works of Zen monks and paintings of Tansetsu Kano. We are awaiting your visit to Tomioka Shigenori Gallery on the first floors of Aizu Yaichi Museum.

Kyoko Asai
Professor at the Aizu Museum

Former Arts and Sciences manager at the Tomioka Art Gallery. Took up position at Waseda University in April 2004 and is currently a professor at the Aizu Museum.