Shoraku Sasaki III Raku Kaga Utsushi Chawan

Potter: Sasaki Shoraku, 3rd Generation

Approximate size: W4.7″ by H3.3″ or 12.2 by 11.9 by 8.3 cm

Kiyomizu temple, Kyoto, Japan
Kiyomizu temple, Kyoto, Japan

This tea bowl was fired in the kiln of one of Kyoto’s best known Raku yaki potters, the third generation Sasaki Shoraku (1944-). The Shoraku line began when the grandfather of the current potter established a kiln near the famous Kiyomizu temple, nestled at the foot of the eastern mountains in Kyoto. In 1945, the kiln was moved to Kameoka near the Yada shrine where it remains till this day.

The Shoraku kiln was founded in 1905, by a nishiki-e (a type of woodblock print), painter from Kyoto named Kichinosuke Sasaki. The Kiyomizu Temple is part of the Daitokuji Temple group and played an important part in the success of this kiln. This was largely due to the support and guidance of Gotō Zuigan, who was a Buddhist monk and Rinzai Zen Master and the chief abbot of the temple group (Myōshin-ji and the Daitoku-ji temples), at this point in time. The monk who he succeeded was former head master Oda Sesshou and together they helped Kichinosuke Sasaki. The kiln became the new official kiln of the temple complex and worked to revive the former pottery that was made on temple grounds years earlier, which was called Murasakino yaki. Work was discontinued and seized activity completely in 1818. The pottery was named after the Murasakino Temple that originally housed the kiln. Later Kichinosuke Sasaki was bestowed the title of ‘Narumo-ken’ for the part he and the kiln played to the restoration of the temple group and revival of their lost pottery.

The areas of smoky black, which are hidden by the coating of white glaze, are known as ‘fu’, and are seen on traditional aka-Raku. Fu is a color change which occurs when fired surrounded by binchotan charcoal produced from Japanese Ubame oak. In other words, it is the burn mark created by binchotan. The surface of aka-Raku is like canvas fabric and the unique black designs of binchotan appear during firing in the kiln. Superb fu depends on the quality of binchotan charcoal and the skill of the craftsman to control the kiln’s fire.

This chawan or tea bowl is an utsushi or faithful replica of one of the seven Raku tea bowls attributed to the great Kōetsu Hon’ami, who through lineage was trained to be a ‘togishi’ or sword polisher. The original is called Kaga and is known for having a partly white glaze, profuse fu and high, steep walls forming the bowl. The original is still in existence. Kōetsu Hon’ami, who due to his proficiency in multiple arts is also called the Japanese Da Vinci. During his life Kōetsu – besides being a great sword polisher and appraiser, was also considered to be great master of calligraphy, pottery and lacquer-ware and in various other fields he excelled. A historical figure of great significance not only in the evolution of Raku ware but in many fields of art.

Utsushi Chawan

High quality duplication traditionally has been admired for established Japanese ceramics since creating high quality duplication requires extremely skilled and broad-based techniques in all aspects of creation, and often compels the artisan to meticulously recreate an atmosphere which often was created on accident by the original artisan. Only a few artisans can duplicate historical treasured arts of Raku yaki.

A tradition dating from the mid 16th century, Raku tea-bowls are made by hand, without the use of a potter’s wheel; giving them a distinctly human feel. In the process of shaping the bowls, potters handle the tea bowls in much the same manner that users will hold them as they drink from them. In this way, we can imagine a connection is formed between the creator of the tea bowl and the participants in the tea ceremony. For this and other reasons stemming from historical circumstances, Raku bowls are considered a favorite of tea practitioners across Japan.

The chawan is in excellent condition with no chips or cracks. As shown it comes with a high quality paulownia wooden tomobako, storage box with calligraphy and seal on the side, a dedicated tomonuno or tea cloth and a pamphlet about the potter.

€320+ shipping cost

Raku tea bowls are made by a special hand-building technique known as ‘tezukune‘, a method of slab forming (distinct from coiling or pinching). In the tezukune technique, the potter presses a ball of clay into a thick disc and then raises the edges bit by bit to shape a bowl that fits comfortably into one’s cupped hands.