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Japanese cuisine and pottery


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#1 torakris

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Posted 12 December 2005 - 05:09 PM

I was reading this article from Nipponia:

Japanese Cuisine: a fest for the eyes

and was curious how many of us really pay attention to the dishes we use when we plate our Japanese foods.
I have to admit that being an always in a hurry mother of three young kids I rarely do, but occasionally I stare at the gorgeous pottery in the stores thinking someday...

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#2 SuzySushi

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Posted 12 December 2005 - 05:48 PM

I do, I do.... about 50% of the time!

I love Japanese dishes and have an entire cupboard filled with Japanese porcelain and pottery, some bought here or in NYC, some hand-carried from Japan, and some given to me as gifts by Japanese friends or when they needed to reduce their own collections when they moved back to Japan.

I've amassed 2 sets (2 different patterns) of rectangular dishes meant for sashimi, 2 sets of round plates about the size of American salad plates, small round bowls, small square bowls, eggplant-shaped small glass bowls, covered chawanmushi bowls, 2 sets of lacquer soup bowls (1 set with lids), 3 sets of soy sauce dishes, a set of very thin porcelain rice bowls, heavier pottery rice bowls and matching teacups, teapot and matching teacups, 2 sake sets with matching cups, an antique (?) lacquer sake set that I bought on eBay, 4 or 5 sets of chopstick rests, and another set of rice bowls that I bought recently at the 99 cent store. All of these are traditional "services for 5." I also have twosomes of lozenge-shaped curry bowls, matching lotus-shaped rice bowls, serving bowls with a sashiko pattern, bamboo zarusoba trays, and 1 matched pair plus mismatched pieces of ramen bowls. And probably 5 or 6 5-pair- sets of lacquer chopsticks that I received as gifts, as well as the "individual" ones we use in the family. Whew!!! Add to that I have a collection of about 20 different Japanese teacups I picked up in my travels.

Over the years, I've sold off several sets of bowls and plates that didn't coordinate with the other dishes... and sadly, some of my favorite rice bowls broke the last time we moved.

I use some of the dishes whenever I can, unless my family's in a hurry for me to get dinner on the table. The more fragile ones get brought out only when we have guests.

Edited to clarify the numbers!

Edited by SuzySushi, 12 December 2005 - 11:29 PM.

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#3 glossyp

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Posted 12 December 2005 - 07:23 PM

I love all of my Japanese dishes and find that when I'm serving Japanese food (not as often as I'd like but at least six to eight times per month), one of my favorite things is to select the dishes. What is the season? What chopstick rests will reflect the mood - whimsical cats I found in Bali or the lovely celedon green ones that look like edamame? What color of bowl will accent the particular salad ingredients? It is a real pleasure and something I don't do with same degree of interest or passion when serving other foods.
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#4 Kiem Hwa

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Posted 12 December 2005 - 10:25 PM

I love Japanese dishes too!
I only have a few so far and have decided that I will slowly collect them over time, and dont want any two pieces to be the same :biggrin: ...okay maybe on occasion two can match, but no more then two....

#5 Kent Wang

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Posted 12 December 2005 - 10:52 PM

Me too! For those in the US, do you find that the "Japanese-inspired" dishes sold in most mainstream American housewares stores like Crate & Barrel and Bed, Bath & Beyond to be rather trashy in style? Quality and durability aside, the sheer aesthetics scream "cheap knockoff" to me.

#6 JasonTrue

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Posted 12 December 2005 - 11:08 PM

For me, I give a fair amount of thought to which plate I use, but I don't worry too much about whether it's exactly the right one. I might choose a different plate or bowl for the same basic dish for any number of idiosyncratic reasons, from seasonality, to theme, to what was easiest to extract out of my cupboard that met the need at the time. I do pay more attention than I used to when it comes to color contrast, textural accent, and so on.

After serious accumulation of Japanese pottery over about 7 years, I use my Japanese dinnerware or teaware almost daily. But I've almost never had to buy a low-budget plate in Japan solely for the purpose of getting food on the table, because I started with a fairy substantial western dinnerware collection right out of college, and bought most of my Japanese pots as I could, when they spoke to me, on various trips to Japan.

Because I have so many Japanese and Korean pots now, I use them regardless of whether I'm serving Western or Japanese food. I always use them when serving anything remotely Japanese, because, of course, the flavor of Japanese food is hugely affected by how it looks in its dish. Europeans, and to some extent, Americans, seem to like austere white plates and let the plating and garnish paint the plate. I (usually) prefer to let the plate decorate the food.

I'm fortunate in that I don't usually have to weigh the risk of putting out one of my favorite, irreplaceable bowls when children are acting up... namely, because I don't yet have children. So I suppose my choices might skew differently if/when that becomes a factor, and I suspect plastic and acrylic dinnerware might make an appearance.
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#7 JasonTrue

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Posted 12 December 2005 - 11:14 PM

It's fine to have sets of say, 2, 3, or 5 similar pieces, but I always discourage people from trying to find matching sets of everything... because Japanese tend to plate smaller portions of various things, it makes a lot of sense to have a somewhat eclectic collection reflecting a family's (or host's) individual taste.

A friend's mother in Ube told me every time she takes a trip, she buys one or two pieces that speak to her. Sometimes it's a single cup or bowl or serving dish, sometimes it might be a set of five interesting tori-zara or kozara. Over 20 or 30 years, that can really add up.

I love Japanese dishes too! 
I only have a few so far and have decided that I will slowly collect them over time, and dont want any two pieces to be the same :biggrin: ...okay maybe on occasion two can match, but no more then two....

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#8 SuzySushi

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Posted 12 December 2005 - 11:31 PM

I (usually) prefer to let the plate decorate the food.

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I like that sentiment!
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#9 Culinista

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 02:43 AM

I recommend "The Fine Art of Japanese Food Arrangement" by Tsuchiya for anyone interested in learning more about formal ideas about marrying food and dishes. I also love books on obento and ekiben. These are a good way to learn the basics, like how to arrange color, not putting round foods on round plates, etc.

One of the joys of eating in a first-rate kaiseki place is the dishware. At Hyotei and Kozue, each bite comes served in a piece worthy of an art gallery, if not a museum. I love picking up the dishes, opening the lids, seeing the colors. Literally, a feast for all the senses when a gorgeous plate comes with something beautiful to eat.

I admit I've developed a huge Japanese tableware addiction. It started at the Setomono matsuri a few years ago, then got dangerous when we got into Oribe-yaki and Kiyomizu-yaki. Now we've branched out into various other regional styles, as well as antiques and lacquerware.

It's not so bad as the rage for teaware under Hideyoshi, but I've gotten to the point where I plan the food and the plates together.

#10 MomOfLittleFoodies

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Posted 13 December 2005 - 11:38 AM

My mother-in-law has a nice collection of Japanese and Japanese inspired stoneware, pottery and porcelain. I've always loved how the Japanese pay so much attention to how food is presented.
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#11 Kiem Hwa

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Posted 14 December 2005 - 01:10 AM

I agree with the idea of having a "set" of similar pieces, mostly to have a few similar sized vessels. My favorite "sets" though are the ones where they are all different patterns.

I guess the reason is because if I only have a limited amount of space in the cabinet, and limit the money I spend on the dishes, Im much happier with a variety rather then identical pieces.

Also, I dont like the look of mass- produced dishes.... I like the ones that are (or at least look) hand-made, with a unique personality, especially the hand-painted ones.

My favorite dish is one I picked up at an art shop, there was a set of hand made dishes by a Japanese-American? artist, and of course, I only bought one dish :biggrin:


It's fine to have sets of say, 2, 3, or 5 similar pieces, but I always discourage people from trying to find matching sets of everything... because Japanese tend to plate smaller portions of various things, it makes a lot of sense to have a somewhat eclectic collection reflecting a family's (or host's) individual taste.

I love Japanese dishes too! 
I only have a few so far and have decided that I will slowly collect them over time, and dont want any two pieces to be the same :biggrin: ...okay maybe on occasion two can match, but no more then two....

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#12 JasonTrue

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Posted 14 December 2005 - 01:36 AM

Mass produced items are instantly recognizable. 99 percent of the "Japanese" dinnerware in the US market is in this category, either imported by the big gift market importers in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, or commissioned by big chain stores. Of course, the dividing line isn't aways that harsh... In many countries, including Japan, there are some mass produced "handmade" items that are simply produced with rapid production techniques, rather anonymously, without much infusion of soul. I find a lot of these in pottery towns from Mashiko to Kyoto.

In Japan, Nippon Craft has a lot of nice, elegant, but fairly consistent pots e.g.:
Posted Image (Hagi ware with somewhat unpredictable crackling hagi-yuu glaze.) I have a 5-piece set of these that I bought on a whim at a department store, and a matching serving bowl, but these were quite cheap (about 750 yen per piece plus 3800 yen for the big serving bowl). In my experience, though, these are a fair step up from the average U.S. department store "Japanese" fare. For example, there are noticeable differences between each bowl, and because they are Hagi ware, they age differently depending on how much hot water exposure each pot gets.

The U.S. seems to demand "dishwasher safe" dishes over personality... I had one customer ask me if my pottery (from YuzuMura) is dishwasher safe, and I had to say... Well, the artists I work with don't really test for that since it's not a concern in most Japanese households, especially for artisan pottery. These pots weren't originally made for export. They are made by a small number of individual potters. I'm sure they are fairly durable, but they are handmade... I wouldn't want to risk chipping or damage on pots that are hard to replace."

("Dishwasher safe" has more to do with porousness than durability... Japanese craft potters, and even traditional production pottery such as that found in Hagi or Bizen, tends to absorb some liquid, which means that rapid high-power drenching isn't the most effective way to make the pots sanitary.).

I agree with the idea of having a "set" of similar pieces, mostly to have a few similar sized vessels.  My favorite "sets" though are the ones where they are all different patterns. 
...
Also, I dont like the look of mass- produced dishes.... I like the ones that are (or at least look) hand-made, with a unique personality, especially the hand-painted ones.


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Take me to your ryokan, please

#13 Kiem Hwa

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Posted 14 December 2005 - 11:21 PM

JasonTrue-
Does that Hagi ware have something in it or is that the glaze? Interesting.
I like some of the Hagi-yaki I have seen posted on ebay, by artist Deishi Shibuya, such as this one:
http://cgi.ebay.com/...1QQcmdZViewItem

#14 JasonTrue

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Posted 21 December 2005 - 12:50 AM

Ah, yes, this particuar dish is filled with soup, but I might get around to shooting something in it that's not entirely full... I usually use it for soupy things, though for misoshiru or suimono I usually use a wooden lacquered bowl from Takayama.

Here's a slightly less full bowl from the same set:

Posted Image

It has some crystals in the bottom that are obscured by my broth.

JasonTrue-
Does that Hagi ware have something in it or is that the glaze?  Interesting. 
I like some of the Hagi-yaki I have seen posted on ebay, by artist Deishi Shibuya, such as this one:
http://cgi.ebay.com/...1QQcmdZViewItem

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Take me to your ryokan, please

#15 BonVivant

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Posted 21 December 2005 - 03:57 AM

I was reading this article from Nipponia:

Japanese Cuisine: a fest for the eyes

and was curious how many of us really pay attention to the dishes we use when we plate our Japanese foods.
I have to admit that being an always in a hurry mother of three young kids I rarely do, but occasionally I stare at the gorgeous pottery in the stores thinking someday...

View Post


in the dutch language there's a saying 'the eye wants something too'.

i pay attention to just about everything when eating Japanese :biggrin: the shape and details of the china, the pattern on the chopsticks etc. and of course the food is the main attraction. everything always looks appetising and beautifully presented. also i like how they cut the vegs [flower shaped carrot or daikon slices, crosses on the shiitake and so on]. presentation is an art and the cuisine is exquisite! [okay just don't ask French or Japanese cuisine has my heart and soul :wub: ]

#16 jeniac42

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 11:44 AM

I would like to build a small collection of Japanese dishes. I'm interesting in buying nice things that are fairly nice. The only plates I own at the present time are Noritake bone china, if that gives you any idea of how concerned I am about dishwasher-safe and microwaveable :biggrin: (That is to say, I own neither a dishwasher nor a microwave, so it doesn't matter.)

The Japanese grocery store near my house only has a small selection of items; the one in Columbus has a larger selection, although last time I was there, I don't remember seeing anything that seemed really nice. By "nice", I'm not sure what I mean. I guess I am looking for things that are handmade in traditional ways.

The problem is, I don't know what to look for. I have tried to find some basic information but everything seems so detailed and overwhelming! For example, I would like to get a nice pair of chopsticks. Is lacquerware the best? Also, I don't understand all the different types of pottery or what I should look for.

I know there is no easy answer to this question, but any guidance is appreciated. Also, if anyone knows where to get such nice things in the US, pointers are welcome. Jason, the items you have are gorgeous but unfortunately slightly more than I am able to spend at the present. :smile:

In the interests of full disclosure, I posted this same question on my blog, but since it's in (bad) Japanese I thought I would ask here as well.

Oh, and another question: Are chawan used as rice bowls? Or are they only used for tea?

Edited by jeniac42, 27 March 2006 - 01:00 PM.

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#17 Hiroyuki

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 04:23 PM

Oh, and another question: Are chawan used as rice bowls? Or are they only used for tea?

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For now, I can answer this question of yours only. Yes, chawan 茶碗 ちゃわん are used as rice bowls. We use 湯飲み茶碗 yu-nomi-jawan (not chawan) for green tea and カップ kappu (which means cup) for coffee and tea. Don't confuse kappu with koppu コップ, which means glass as in a glass of water.

#18 _john

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 11:06 PM

There is a museum of oriental ceramics in Osaka but I have not yet been there. They seem to focus on non-food related ceramics but on their website you can see a few food oriented examples.

There is a restaurant supply district in Osaka called doguyasuji, there are several shops there that specialize in very fine hand made pottery.

When I was living in the bay area in califorina I could instantly recognize most "japanese" style pottery that people had in their homes because it was all from the same importer. In Japan it is just as easy to recognize the pottery that you can get at 100yen shops.

I am very interested in fine Japanese pottery but it is quite an expensive hobby so I remain a distant appreciator rather than a patron of Japanese pottery. :smile:

#19 Corinna Dunne

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 04:03 AM

I too love Japanese porcelain and ceramics, particularly the raku ware (and no, unfortunately I don't have any of it).

But whenever I have noodles, I always use my Japanese bowls, and I use the traditional dish with a lid for miso or clear soup (even if it's only from a packet). I have a few sets of sake bottles and cups which get brought out whenever we have shabu shabu, and even though I haven't yet made sushi at home, I've a load of little soy sauce dishes and chopstick rests waiting patiently for my first attempt!

I think there is something particularly special about Japanese tableware, it is very much part of the sensual experience, and you really get the sense that time was taken to make each piece, just like the food served in it.

When I was in Barcelona last year, I noticed that many of the avant garde restaurants are using Japanese inspired tableware, and even in a more traditional restaurant, quite a number of the starters were served on a black sushi block.
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#20 helenjp

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 05:24 AM

Roughly, you can divide things into pottery and lacquerware for individual use, and serving dishes/condiment containers and dishes.

Absolute basics (personal):
Chawan (rice bowl) - pottery or china

Miso bowl, lidded or unlidded, in brown stain plus clear lacquer or red or black lacquer on the outside, usually red lacquer inside. Best on a wooden base, but melamine is OK.

ko-sara - 3 inch and 5 inch round "saucers" or similar size in different shapes

Chopsticks

Expanded set (personal):
fish plates - rectangular

asa-bachi (shallow bowl) - sort of like a soup coupe or small cereal bowl

donburi - bigger, deep bowl for rice with toppings, hot noodles etc

chopstick rests - only used for formal dining, I'm afraid.

Serving dishes - anything goes, but things I use regularly are:
set of 3 nesting square china dishes, for everything from pickles to vegetables.
Flat or shallow oval or rectangular platter or wooden dishes of the type used for sushi (I have some bamboo ones which are easy to look after, light, and attractive),
Wide, deep dish for simmered dishes, any shape.
Matched set of chopsticks used only for serving

Things I like using from time to time:
A classier version of the humble ridged mortar (suribachi) for all kinds of dressed vegetable dishes.
Large lacquered dishes.
Very small decorative enameled or glass or ceramic dishes for small portions of something special!

#21 Hiroyuki

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 06:40 AM

By "nice", I'm not sure what I mean. I guess I am looking for things that are handmade in traditional ways.

Hmm... You are speaking in riddles... :biggrin: What do you think of these items, for example?:
http://www.hcg-choic...achi/meshi.html
Good or bad?

For example, I would like to get a nice pair of chopsticks. Is lacquerware the best?

Who said that? I prefer wooden chopsticks with enameral? coating, which I think are the most popular in Japan.

Also, I don't understand all the different types of pottery or what I should look for.

OK. Why not start with the very basics - hashi (chopsticks), chawan (rice bowl), and owan (miso soup bowl), plus yunomi jawan if you drink green tea. Then you can start to expand your collection. What do you think?

#22 jeniac42

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 03:11 PM

Roughly, you can divide things into pottery and lacquerware for individual use, and serving dishes/condiment containers and dishes.

...

chopstick rests - only used for formal dining, I'm afraid.

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Thank you. That was very helpful and made it a lot less overwhelming when considering my options.

Since chopstick rests are only used for formal dining... what do you normally do with your chopsticks if you need to set them down while eating? I usually balance mine across the top of my donburi-sized bowl. :unsure:

Hmm...  You are speaking in riddles... :biggrin:  What do you think of these items, for example?:
http://www.hcg-choic...achi/meshi.html
Good or bad?

View Post


I like those. I have also been looking on eBay and here are some examples of chawan I think are nice:
Iga or Shigaraki style
Irabo style
Hagi style

I think they are quite expensive but since I will be buying pieces slowly I feel I don't mind that too much.

By lacquerware chopsticks I think I meant what you said, Hiroyuki. For example:
these seem quite nice but again quite expensive.

I also think it must cost more to buy these items here than it would in Japan, but I'm not likely to be able to afford a trip to Japan for another year at least, and I'm too impatient! :biggrin:

But thank you all for your advice so far. It's really helpful and of course I will certainly be posting pictures of whatever I do end up buying, with food in them of course!

I also got a new cookbook last night, called Harumi's Japanese Cooking by Harumi Kurihara, and she spends a couple of pages discussing plates as well.
Jennie

#23 Cheeko

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Posted 16 September 2006 - 08:59 AM

I also think it must cost more to buy these items here than it would in Japan, but I'm not likely to be able to afford a trip to Japan for another year at least, and I'm too impatient!  :biggrin:

Have you checked in your area for pottery artists/craftsmen who might specialize in these types of dishes? It's almost inevitable to find artists who are either trained and or inspired by things like Bizen pottery. There's even this guy in Great Barrington, Massachusetts who went as far as opening a Kaiseki and Restaurant thanks to his pottery training in Bizen. I'll be honest, I ate there once, and I wasn't as inpressed as the reviewers or the staff, but the dishes were quite nice :smile:

#24 akachouchin

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Posted 03 April 2007 - 03:26 PM

I'm shopping online for some additional rice bowls and would like some guidance on this. I know there are chawan for tea and chawan for rice. Some chawan are sized and shaped obviously for use with matcha tea so I know to filter those out. But there are other chawan that are advertised for tea yet they look to be the same as chawan described specifically as meshi chawan for rice. Are these actually the same thing? Also, would it be common or uncommon to have different style rice bowls for each person at home rather than all being the same? Thanks in advance.

#25 sanrensho

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Posted 03 April 2007 - 04:04 PM

Also, would it be common or uncommon to have different style rice bowls for each person at home rather than all being the same? Thanks in advance.

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I think it's pretty common, if not the norm, to have different styles (sizes) of rice bowls for each person. In our household (two adults and two kids aged 5 and 8), each person eats a different amount of rice so we each have a different size of rice bowl. The concept is the same as chopsticks, where each person has their own set.

OTOH, we have a set of uniform rice bowls that we reserve for guests.
Baker of "impaired" cakes...

#26 JasonTrue

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Posted 03 April 2007 - 04:48 PM

I have no exact duplicates of rice bowls in my personal collection... I think I have two that vary only in color. I have one that's pretty small, and one that's pretty big, and the rest are somewhere in between.

Matching sets are actually historically not the norm in Japan... For tori-zara (small plates for picking up shared items), yunomi (teacups), kozara (small plates for tsukemono or similar items) and kobachi (small bowls), it's common, but certainly not obligatory (and sometimes not possible), to get them in sets of 5.

Actually most people collect dishes over time; one of my friends in west Japan would buy one or two things every time she took a trip somewhere. Thirty or forty years later she amassed quite a collection, and kept a number of them in a house she rented out to another family next door.

The shape pretty much distinguishes rice bowls from other types of "o-wan". One of my potters distinguished a "rice bowl" and a "cafe au lait bowl" primarily by size.

Also, would it be common or uncommon to have different style rice bowls for each person at home rather than all being the same? Thanks in advance.

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I think it's pretty common, if not the norm, to have different styles (sizes) of rice bowls for each person. In our household (two adults and two kids aged 5 and 8), each person eats a different amount of rice so we each have a different size of rice bowl. The concept is the same as chopsticks, where each person has their own set.

OTOH, we have a set of uniform rice bowls that we reserve for guests.

View Post


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Take me to your ryokan, please

#27 sanrensho

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Posted 03 April 2007 - 05:18 PM

The other thing to remember is that rice bowls (as well as other china) eventually break over time, for one reason or another. Even if you start with a set, if you have more than a few household members, you'll eventually need to buy more non-matching rice bowls to replace the ones that break.
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#28 Hiroyuki

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Posted 03 April 2007 - 05:32 PM

there are other chawan that are advertised for tea yet they look to be the same as chawan described specifically as meshi chawan for rice. Are these actually the same thing?

View Post

I have no idea. Could you show us some examples?

In present-day Japan, when we speak of chawan or o-chawan (with the honorific affix o-), we almost always mean chawan for rice. Chawan for tea are called yunomi (湯飲み) chawan or jawan.

As for your second question, all my family have our own personal o-chawan, which vary in shape and size. Like sanrensho points out, even if we start with a set of chawan, we will end up using different ones sooner or later because chawan are frigile. :biggrin:

#29 aliénor

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Posted 04 April 2007 - 12:30 PM

as a working potter i would agree with what was said previously. try and find a potter to make some of these shapes and styles. if the local potter doesn't do that style of japanese pottery, he or she will surely know of others who are practiced in that style. and for those of you in japan check out mashiko for their overwhelming handsome handmade pottery fairs/exhibits/markets. i have been there and was blown away by the diverse styles from some very good potters and at very good prices. one doesn't have to go to department store in either usa or japn to find individually made, well crafted pieces in either stoneware or porcelain. support your local craftsmen and get unique handmade crafts!
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#30 Kent Wang

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 12:48 PM

Does anyone have photos of Japanese plates that they own, or just photos of ones they like?