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Yoko Kawashima Explains the Body of a Matcha Bowl

Yoko Kawashima of Waraku Gallery, an importer of fine Japanese ceramics stoneware and furniture, graciously agreed to answer a few questions on the matcha bowl. Yoko works with her sister and mother at the family owned gallery where each item is has selected by the owners. Matcha Source is proud to feature matcha bowls from the Waraku collection.


Why drink tea out of a matcha bowl?
During the late 16th century, renowned tea master Sen no Rikyu pioneered the use of matcha bowls during tea ceremonies.  The complexities of “chanoyu” or tea ceremony are represented through the aesthetic of handling the matcha bowl and utensils throughout the matcha making and serving process. To us, using a matcha bowl is not merely for the act of drinking but a symbolic way of life. We feel the matcha bowl is a reflection of the self and the refinement of self over time.
 

Can you tell us about the "body parts" of the matcha bowl. Both the interior and exterior elements.
The Japanese culture has a tendency to personify objects and their anatomy.
Even a simple piece of art like the matcha bowl has its basic “body parts”:
 
  • Do: torso or central part of the bowl
  • Koudai: foot of the bowl
  • Chadamari: the round indentation at the center, inside the bowl
  • Mikomi: the inner lining, where the sides meet the bottom of the bowl
  • Kuchi zukuri: the mouth of the bowl

What is the difference between a summer bowl and a winter bowl?
A summer bowl is typically lighter in color and design. Most summer bowls are generally lighter in weight as a result of a thinner construction. The mouth is also wider as many bowls fan out at the lip; a mechanism that allows tea to cool faster in warm weather. These bowls also typically have hand-painted flowers (peonies and irises) and/or pastel hues. Artists may choose to use “jiki” or porcelain for summer pieces as the material is much lighter than other clay.
 
Winter bowls, as you can imagine, are much denser and thicker overall.  The mouth tends to be slightly smaller in order to retain the heat of the tea. Depending on the artist, darker glazes may be used for winter bowls.

Matcha Bowls are distinguished by regions and artisans as well as clay body and glazes.  Can you talk a bit about these stylistic influences? Why are some matcha tea bowls more ornate and others more free form and earthen?
It’s important to remember that each region produces different types of clay, depending upon the soil from which it is derived.  Shigaraki, one of four regions we import from, produces a grainier, coarser clay which in turn gives it a very rustic appeal.
 
Arita, on the other hand, is notorious for its porcelain, which is the finest, smoothest of clay (and notably the most difficult to sculpt).  Arita pieces are highly sought after not only for their artistic value but for their silky surfaces and lightness in weight.
 
On another note, kyoyaki (ceramics from the Kyoto region) is a good example of a style rich in history and reputable for its ornate designs.  Because Kyoto was the capital of aristocrats back in the day, Kyoyaki was known for its lavish use of bright colors, gold accents, and hand-painted drawings of flowers as well as abstract designs.  The more intricate the hand paintings, the more it attracted attention.
 
Finally, Tokoname is a region that produces clay that is particularly valued for making tea ware.  The iron content found in the soil was believed to be good for the health when it seeped into the tea.  The craftsmanship is of very high quality: the tea pots are easily cleaned, the handles are very comforting in the hands, and the spout pours beautifully.

Yoko Kawashima of Waraku Gallery, an importer of fine Japanese ceramics stoneware and furniture, graciously agreed to answer a few questions on the matcha bowl. Yoko works with her sister and mother at the family owned gallery where each item is has selected by the owners. Matcha Source is proud to feature matcha bowls from the Waraku collection.

What should tea drinkers look for when purchasing a matcha bowl?

When purchasing a matcha bowl, it’s key to understand which shape, color and design reflects your personality best. Does the composition as a whole put you at ease?  How does the texture feel in your hands, on your lips?
 
Of course it’s also good to keep in mind the seasonal factor...a winter bowl for the holiday season would make a perfect gift!
 

Which style matcha bowl do you prefer/collect?
The three of us have slightly different tastes from each other, but overall we have an affinity for earthy tones. We appreciate both the smooth and sleek, as well as slightly rough textures depending on the occasion.   Most importantly, we appreciate the balance of color and shape in a composition.

What's next for you and Waraku Gallery?
We are looking forward to importing new products from Japan very soon!  In addition to matcha bowls, we would like to continue collecting dishware, vases and teapots.  Please visit us on our website at www.warakugallery.com. You will notice that we will be improving our online store and adding new features in the coming months!