Antique Mino Kohiki Chawan

Chawan: Mumei, unsigned

Approximate size: W4.9″ by H2.8″ or 12.5 by 7.1 cm

This chawan has always had a special place in my heart and collection, ever since I purchased it in the course of 2013. It has that quintessential yet indescribable feeling of old Japan. It dates from the mid to late Edo period and is in a great state of preservation. The care and attention given to this piece, being housed in a fine silk shifuku, cloth pouch inside a high quality tomobako or storage box, inset with additional pillows in the corners for added protection. The whole displaying the reverence the previous owner and caretaker had for this chawan.

Based on a half cylinder shape with walls that slope outwards. A prominent groove winding around the exterior and featuring dark, somewhat course clay with a hint of the simple elegance reminiscent of old Ido chawan from Korea. The bowl has a white kohiki (also seen spelled kobiki), powder glaze over a nezumi or gray coloured under-glaze that has a slight light blue tint. On the front there is an abstract decoration which one at first glance might associate with the Shino or Oribe tradition but in combination with kohiki is not often seen. A rare Mino gem.

Hatakeyama Memorial Museum of Art

Punch’ng ware and Kohiki specifically refers to an iron-rich clay body covered over with white slip and then a translucent glaze. In Japan, the Kohiki style started with Korean potters and appealed greatly to the busho chajin or warrior-tea men of the late 1500’s. Kohiki is thus a style closely associated with tea. The most famous kohiki chawan in Japan is named “Matsudaira” and is in the collection of the Hatakeyama Memorial Museum of Art in Tokyo.

Pottery has been produced in the Mino area of Gifu prefecture since the Kamakura period (the end of the 12th century). The main names synonymous with Mino are Oribe, Shino and ki-Seto (yellow Seto ware). It is said that Shino was the first ware to decorate its pieces with brush-drawn designs as shown on this example. Before the use of brush-drawn decorations potters had been carving, incising or were appliqueing their ideas and fantasies. Shino is also known for its milky white glaze and paired characteristic of small pinholes called suana (nest holes), that appear in the glaze. Tea masters favored naturally arriving details or happy chance accidents emanating from the creation process, no doubt being influenced by perceptions of life and nature in the Shinto religion. Shinto as a religion is also known as kami-no-michi and practitioners of it often regard it as Japan’s indigenous religion and as a nature religion.

Mino ware originated in the Tono area of Gifu prefecture. This is a pottery tradition with much change, innovation and history. Mino ware does not maintain a single style, but instead has over 15 styles or sub-types registered as traditional handicrafts (Shino, Oribe, ki-Seto and so on).

Kohiki or kobiki is a style of tea bowl that can sometimes be overlooked because of its inherent simplicity. It takes a trained eye and a bit of history to spot one of these hidden treasures in plain sight. The style originated in the Korean Yi Dynasty, in what is called Pun-ch’ng ware (starting around the year 1300 and continued for over 600 years till 1910). It found great favor with the tea-crowd of the 1500’s and onward. If one looks deep into the making of it, one can see melting snow drifts, the sky on a cloudy day, the ageing plaster on an ancient ruins or gossamer veiled cobwebs in a morning-dew covered field.

Originally kohiki pieces were made by potters churning out hundreds at a time to make their quota to sell to the public. They were thrown fast- glazed fast and stuffed into a bulging kiln that produced the most pieces for the firing. That is how one such bowl was made; but it became famous from the sharp eye of a chajin. Often kohiki chawan look as if they have been white washed, but the way that the slip and glaze fall make each unique.

This chawan has no chips or cracks and condition is exceptionally good considering the age. This piece has always been given the greatest care. Comes with a high quality shiho-san paulownia tomobako or storage box with corner-pillows for added safety and a lovely decorated silk shifuku, cloth pouch fit for this rare piece.


Thank you very much!