Those who take a personal interest in yakimono pieces used for tea ceremonies should head on down to the Seikado Bunko Art Museum before March 24, 2013. The Yohen and Yuteki Sado Tea Ceremony Masterpieces collection is one of the most important exhibitions of tea ceremony vessels visible to members of the general public today. The museum is just a bus ride away for many people.

Though the Seikado Collection is actually quite vast, only small portions of it are ever put on display at a time. While the majority of the exhibitions have focused on Iwasaki Yanosuke’s collection of manuscripts, the museum has a competent collection of yakimono pieces as well. Tea vessels are a point of interest for many art enthusiasts.

A great deal of work was put into these ceramics because of the idea that tea is much more than a drink. Having the proper equipment and manners was just as important as the blend visitors were drinking. In fact, in many cases having these things was actually more important than having tea itself.

Photo credit: Seikado Bunk Art Museum, « Tea bowl, Yohen Temmoku, National Treasure »

To that end, skilled artisans produced various glazes to give their clients an opportunity to show off. Those who find themselves admiring chawan tea bowls might come across a pleasant amber colored glaze. By mixing manganese or iron oxide with feldspar, potters were able to make a vibrantly deep color. This same glaze is also often seen on mizusashi water jars.

However, as this exhibit focuses on yohen and yuteki artifacts, it might be useful to learn a thing or two about them before viewing the pieces. Yohen refers to a natural ash glaze that is produced by the kiln itself. Kilns cause the glaze to run, and ashes on the kiln floor actually mix with the liquid glaze. Yakishime ware might sport blues, reds or browns in interesting organic patterns. While this might seem like an amateur’s way of glazing, it actually takes a true master to plan because the natural effect is simply so unpredictable.

Yuteki tenmoku glazes are done with iron and sometimes feature oil spots. These could have a rough or something feeling depending on how the pottery was fired. They certainly do have a very different feeling compared to yohen artifacts, so it was interesting that the Seikado Collection decided to show these two styles off together.

Interestingly enough, tenmoku tea bowls were originally considered exotic in Japan. They’re based off a design popular in Song Dynasty China, and the originals were imported. Japanese artists started to experiment with their own designs and archaeologists would never confuse later Japanese examples from Song Dynasty pieces. Buddhist monks brought Tenmoku to Japan from kilns in what’s now Fujian Province.

Admission prices shouldn’t scare anyone off. Adults can view the exhibit for ¥800. Those who are currently studying at high schools and universities can check out each piece of glazed yakimono history for only ¥500. Junior high school and elementary students get into the exhibit for free.