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Welcome to the World of Raku Tea Bowls

What you need to know
» About Raku Ware
» The feature of Rakuyaki
» How to keep Rakuchawan clean

About Raku Ware

Raku is a kind of Japanese pottery used in Japanese tea ceremonies, in the form of chawan tea bowls.
It is said that Ameya, a naturalized Japanese who was born in China, brought Raku ware during Eisho era (1504~1520). Raku ware was originally produced as a tea bowl for tea ceremonies in the middle of Tensho era (1573-1592). At that time, Sen no Rikyū, who is a renowned tea master during Azuchi-momoyama era (1573-1600), taught Chōjirō, Ameya’s son how to produce Raku ware. Chōjirō was a roof tiler at Jurakudai Palace Hideyoshi Toyotomi, who was a powerful feudal lord, general, and great politician of the Sengoku era or Age of Civil War (1467-1603). Chōjirō set about producing the pottery at Jurakudai Palace after mastering the technique. His earthenware, therefore, came to be called Jurakuyaki or Juraku ware.

Jyōkei the second, an heir to Chōjirō, receive the seal Raku from Tokugawa Shōgun, and he started to use the name of Raku. Raku family has since handed their unique technique of pottery on to the next generation. The clay of Raku ware is stoneware clay and it is fired at low temperature in the process of production. The form of those bowls fit comfortably in your hand and are easy to hold. They are also a good match to tea utensils and accessories. Their subdued color glaze represents one of the feature of Rakuyaki. Those features unequivocally indicate Rikyū’s aesthetic sense, so it is fair to say that Raku ware is symbolic of Wabi-cha or a style of Japanese tea ceremony which emphasizes simplicity. “Wabi” literally means “pitifully sad or lonely.”

About Raku Ware

There is a phrase indicating the classes of the bowls. “Ichi-Raku, Ni-Hagi, San-Karatsu,” meaning that Raku is the first class place.
Hagi the second class and Karatsu the third as tea bowls for tea ceremonies.
Rakuyaki is still deemed a tea bowl unique to Japanese tea ceremonies.

The feature of Rakuyaki

Rakuyaki tea bowls feel soft and warm in terms of its form. Its form is shaped in a unique way.
In general, most piece of pottery are produced by the following process:
It is shaped on the wheel and is burned in a kiln. When it gets cold, it is gotten out of the kiln. Rakuyaki bowls are shaped on the wheel but shaped only by hand and paddle. This technique called “Tezukune”. It is shaped this way, and the bowls surface is deliberately planed. And then, biscuit firing and glazing are done, and the pottery vessel is fired in a short time at the temperature from 800℃ to 1200℃ so that and warm texture can be porduced. In order to make this process possible, fine power of chamotte brick is added to the clay before it is kneaded. A lot of air bubbles in the clay, which makes the pottery porous. The porous pottery can endure expansion and contraction caused by rapid change of temperature through firing and cooling. Rakuyaki is produced by these processes.
If users come to really appreciate Rakuyaki, they become captivated by it.
A porous and moisture-containing earthenware, it is so fragile that careful handling is required.

Raku Chawan is developed for tea ceremonies by Sen no Rikyū.
Sophisticated ingenuous features can be observed everywhere about the tea bowls produced by Rikyū.

ILook at the Kuro Raku Chawan (a black Raku tea bowl) from the side in the picture. The rim of this tea bowl called “Kuchizukuri” is not straight. It is wavy and there are five high parts around the rim. These parts are called “Gogaku”. Go means five and gaku means a mountain. The name of “Gogaku” is used exclusively for Raku Chawan. This shape is formed this way not only for the sake of the design but also anti-drop mechanism: preventing “Chasen” or a tea mixer and “Chashaku” or a tea scoop from dropping from the rim of the tea bowl when the bowl is put them there at tea ceremonies. Besides, the comfort and smoothness is required for the rim of the tea bowl because you put the mouth directly on the rim.

Kuro Raku Chawan

IIThe next picture shows “Chasenzuri”, which is the part where Chasen touches the bowl. As a tea bowl is deep like the one in this picture, it is easy to make Matcha tea because you can use a Chasen easily in it. The tea bowl has a round dent at its bottom like the one in the picture. It is called “Chadamari”, which means tea grounds which have fallen to the bottom after you drink tea. This is also something unique to Wabi-cha that you can enjoy.

Chasenzuri

IIIFurthermore, another feature of Rakuyaki are traces of the tongs on the tea bowl. Rakuyaki is produced by the rapid change in the temperatures through firing and cooling. When you bake Rukuyaki tea bowls and get them out of the kiln, you use a pair of tongs to pick them up. At that time, the traces of the tongs are left on Rakuyaki. Kuroraku in particular has a clear trace because it is gotten out from the kiln at the higher temperature of 1200℃ than when you bake Akaraku (a red Raku tea bowl). This trace is the proof of “Kuroraku Chawan” (Kuroraku tea bowls). When customers buy Raku ware, they might mistakenly think that it is a scratch but it is not. You should appreciate it as one of the unique qualities of Rakuchawan. That is an expression of “Wabi-cha” of Sen no Rikyū.

traces of the tongs

How to keep Rakuchawan clean

Rakuchawan

As the treatment for Rakuchawan, we recommend that a tea bowl be dipped in lukewarm water. A new bowl for one or two minutes, and an older one for about 30 seconds to keep it clean, keep it being covered with stains and to prevent damage.

Rakuchawan

When not in use, dry a tea bowl off with a towel. If a tea bowl is not dried enough, it may be damaged and a damp smell would not dissipate because Rakuchawan is highly absorbent and breathable. If you do not dry it enough, the moisture causes mold.

Sazen Tea Rakuchawan selection

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