In Japan, the form that porcelain ware takes varies in accordance with its function. While there are no specific “rules”, it is possible to more deeply savor the world of Kyoto ware / Kiyomizu ware by understanding each vessel’s characteristics.
Mainly used in the traditional Tea Ceremony, this tea bowl is used for making and drinking Matcha.
Matcha, a fine powder refined from the fresh buds of the tea plant, is put into the Matcha bowl. Hot water is added, the mixture is stirred with a bamboo tea whisk until it foams lightly, and the tea is then drunk directly in that form. As such, the Matcha bowl is a vessel both for drinking and for making tea.
Matcha bowls come in various shapes, and are used in coordination with the current season or the theme of the Tea Ceremony. For instance, contained bowls with smaller openings that prevent the tea from cooling are used in winter, whereas broad, flat bowls are used in the summertime. Of course, not only the form is considered when selecting an appropriate Matcha bowl for a given occasion. The colors and patterns of the decoration, the weight, and the feel of the bowl are also important.
In Kyoto, in the beginning of the 17th century, there were three representative schools of the Tea Ceremony: the Omotesenke, the Urasenke, and the Mushakojisenke. Concurrently, a large number of kilns producing porcelain ware flourished. To satisfy the lofty requests of the master practitioners of the Tea Ceremony and the fine tastes of Kyoto’s citizens, these many craftsmen crafted a wide array of inimitable Matcha bowls.
Thus, it may be said that the tastes and styles of the rich culture of Kyoto find their expression in the Kyoto ware / Kiyomizu ware Matcha bowl.
Yunomi Teacup, Kumidashi Teacup, Sencha Teacup
Apart from the Matcha bowl used in the Tea Ceremony, there are a variety of other teacups: the tall, cylindrical Yunomi teacup, the wide-brimmed and circular Kumidashi teacup, and the Sencha teacup, which is used in Sencha-Do, the Green Tea Ceremony.
The Yunomi teacup may be found in homes throughout Japan today. It was originally imported from China, along with tea itself, during the Heian period (794 - 1185), and by the time of the Edo period (1603 - 1868) had become widely used even among the public. The cups may be used in sets: personal Yunomi teacups can be designated for each member of a family, or matching cups may be used by couples. As the Yunomi teacup has excellent insulating properties, it is most appropriate for hot tea. Even when the teacup is over half full of hot water, the upper portion remains cool and may be grasped.
The Kumidashi teacup, considered more formal than the Yunomi, is typically used with a saucer when serving tea to guests or visitors. In the latter days of the Edo period, as green tea became popular in Kyoto, use of the Kumidashi teacup spread. This is because the width of the brim and the shortness of the cup allow the color of the tea to be more easily discerned.
The Sencha teacup, a smaller version of the Kumidashi teacup, is the best cup for enjoying the changing taste of the first, second, and third steeping of green tea. It is used in Sencha-Do, the Green Tea Ceremony.
This bowl, never absent from the Japanese table, is used for holding rice. There are a variety of types, some with lids, others short and with wide brims, but the form most comfortable to the hand is preferred. There is a Japanese tradition of gifting two rice bowls, one smaller and one larger, to newly married couples.
From small plates for holding spices or condiments, to large plates that carry enough to divide between many people, every variety of size is available. These plates may be used for all sort of cuisines, including Japanese, Western, and Chinese.
Square plates. In the Japanese home, square plates are often used to serve grilled or cooked fish whole. They may also be used as accents in combination with round plates, to brighten and expand the pleasure of arranging the table.
Bowls. Used for cuisine featuring noodles or sauces, to hold confectionaries during the Tea Ceremony, and for a variety of other purposes. These bowls are also perfect for holding arrangements of fruit.