Antique Agano Kobiki Chawan

Mark: Stamped with Agano ware’s tomoe or spiral mark

Approximate size: W5.1″ by H3.6″ or 13.0 by 9.2 cm

This is an antique Agano chawan or ceremonial tea bowl with a shiro – white kobiki (kohiki), kind of glaze. Irregularly applied around the bowl except for where the koudai or foot ring touched the saggar. Agano ware is made in what is modern day Fukuoka prefecture. Specifically it is said to have arose in 1602, in and around Fukuchi, Kawara and Ōtō town, in Tagawa district. It was counted as one of the Enshū nana gama during the Edo period because it was loved by tea masters and enthousiasts alike. Agano ware specializes lie in its variety of enamels used and yohen effects which are changes natural patterns produced by the glaze interacting with the fires of the kiln.

Agano ware further interested me due to its relation to well known samurai and historically important figures like Hosokawa Tadaoki. A daimyo during the end of the Sengoku period and lord of Miyazu Castle in Tango. He was the founder of the Higo clan and first daimyo of Buzen province (Kokura domain).

At the start of the Edo period Hosokawa Tadaoki was born under the Hosokawa name (a branch of the Ashikaga family). He grew up a samurai and became a well-known practitioner of the Tea ceremony. After shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki was banished – taking the name Haneshiba, Tadaoki became lord of Miyazu castle in Tango and Kumaso province (later renamed to Higo, current Kumamoto prefecture).

After acquiring increasing means through his title and function as lord he summoned a Korean potter Sokai (Agano Kizou). Sokai traveled up to Agano, Toyosaki province at his behest and constructed a workshop. That workshop was effectively the start of Agano ware.

Interesting to note is the 79th prime minister Hosokawa Morihiro is descended from the Hosokawa clan.

Enshū favoured a number of Japanese tea utensils and discussed these at length with friends, connoisseurs of tea and lords of provinces which were home to the kilns. It is assumed that Enshū also had work made on commission which helped with establishing some of the newer kilns during that time. At the same time he also build long-term relationships with the older sites. A list in itself did not exist but was compiled after this death based on his correspondence and the knowledge which kilns he preferred to be a patron of. The earliest mention of his list is from a late Edo period book from 1857 called “Historical Investigation into Domestic Ceramics” (Honchō tōki kōshō).

Enshū’s Seven Kilns or Enshū chō (Enshū nana gama), is a list of Japanese pottery kilns which ware’s were considered favourites of Tea master Kobori Enshū (1579–1647).

The seven types of pottery Famous Tea Master Enshu favoured

Asahi ware from Buzen Province
Agano ware from Buzen Province
Akahada ware from Yamato Province
Kosobe ware from Settsu Province
Shitoro ware, later Tōtōmi Province
Takatori ware from Chikuzen Province
Zeze ware from Ōmi Province

Old Agano ware chawan are are mostly mumei (unsigned or without mark). Few are signed with potter’s name and there are fewer which bear a date. Starting at the end of the Edo period the wares are marked with the spiral or ‘tomoe’.

Until the early 17th century, right-handedness and left-handedness coexisted and were not constant, although a study reported that the left-handedness was constant for works in the upper part of the pottery between 1804 and 1830. Later, after the Meiji era, the style was changed to a kiln marking.

The chawan, sealed with the spiral, has no chips or cracks and condition is excellent. Comes with the original high quality shiho san paulownia tomobako or storage box with calligraphy on the lid. The storage box has been lacquered black with Japanese lacquer which is durable and in excellent condition.

€420 + shipping cost