Until January 25, art appreciators will be able to see the Raku tea bowls exhibition at the Mitsui Memorial Museum. The exhibition is a major yakimono ceramics show that features some select instruments from the classical tea ceremony. As the name suggests, a special exhibition of Raku tea bowls is taking center stage.

Both red and black raku ware yakimono pieces will be on display. On January 4 they will be joined by a national treasure by Okyo Maruyama. That national treasure, « Folding Screen of Pine Trees in the Snow, is supposed to help art appreciators ring in the new year in style.

Small black raku ware tea bowl

Chojiro made this Mitsui exhibition piece in the 16th century.

As well as Okyo Maruyama-sensei’s work, the display will feature pieces by both Donyu and Chojiro. Adults can view the artifacts for ¥1000. Students attending high school and university classes can see them for ¥500, while everyone younger may get in to see them for free.

Raku ware might be the best choice possible for a New Year’s show. The characters that spell the word Raku mean enjoyment or comfort. It’s derived from the name of a palace in Kyoto that was built by none other than Hideyoshi.

Rikyu, the great tea master, was once involved with the construction of the Jurakudai palace. Chojiro was his tile maker, and he started to produce some hand made tea bowls for use in the tea ceremony that Rikyu-sensei enjoyed. Naturally, Chojiro’s works are now being exhibited at this museum. This is much to the delight of those students of history. Of course, these methods of making high-quality tea bowls didn’t stay in one place for too long.

Kuroraku tea bowl photograph

Black raku pieces always have a tendency to stand out from the crowd.

Over time wakigama branch kilns started to make yakimono in the raku tradition. They were largely founded by Raku-family potters as well as potters who apprenticed in the head family’s studio. Ohi-yaki might be the most well-known of these branch styles. That being said, there are actually quite a few floating around.

Rather than being considered fakes or imitators, products of these branch kilns have been praised as their own unique styles for a long time. That being said, it’s nice to see the Mitsui Memorial Museum promote the original Raku pieces. It gives people a chance to see a pretty major yakimono show as well as catch a glimpse of a rare national treasure. It’s also nice to see Chojiro’s works on a truly national stage once again. In some ways, it might be considered an international stage as people from around the world will flock to see this.