While the different types of tea utensils and their sheer amount may be overwhelming, first let’s start with something familiar. After all, “a thousand mile journey begins with one step.” Luckily, we are at the heart of the ceramics capital, Aichi Prefecture. Here at the Aichi Prefectural Ceramic Museum, you can get up close and personal with a wide range of Japanese ceramic pottery used for tea ceremony.

The Aichi Prefectural Ceramic Museum is located at the foot of Mt. Sanage, in the eastern part of Nagoya where you can overlook the city of Seto among the gentle green hills. The surrounding area of the museum, including the foot of Mt. Sanage, is actually where the historic kiln called Sanage kiln originates. This kiln formed the roots of such ceramic practices as Seto ware and Tokoname ware. Seto ware uses various different kinds of glazes for its finish, whereas Tokoname ware doesn’t use any glaze at all. This gives the finished product a strong reddish tint. It’s interesting that while the roots are the same, the impression of Seto ware and Tokoname ware are very different.

The museum’s permanent exhibition covers how ceramics have evolved, focusing on the typical production areas from ancient times to the present. Similar to trends in fashion, you can discover trends and demands as they unfolded through time when you pay attention to the different colors and shapes used for ceramics.

Many of the tools used in Chanoyu drew inspiration from vessels brought back from China and the Korean Peninsula. The Tenmoku tea bowl, often used for tea ceremonies, was originally created to mimic the shape of a bowl brought back by Zen monks from Mt. Tenmoku in China. Given that many people still yearn for fashion in Paris and Milan today, we can assume that in a time when transportation technology was not nearly as developed, pottery techniques and styles of pottery brought home from the mainland were highly sought after.

The exhibit also offers some examples of "Mitate." "Mitate" is to use something made for another purpose as a tea ceremony tool. For example, “Korai tea bowl” is an ordinary dish used regularly on the Korean Peninsula, which was repurposed as a bowl for matcha. Mitate finds beauty in everyday tools, giving spectators a fresh take on something familiar. In everyday life, one can enjoy the tools around you by keeping this concept of Mitate in mind, thus adding more awareness to your experience.

After going around the exhibition, continue to the tea room, "Tosuian", located in the museum garden. There, you can choose from a list of pictures of bowls made by writers in Aichi prefecture and enjoy some tea from your favorite tea bowl. Choosing a bowl according to the season and your mood is the real highlight of tea ceremony, so take your time to choose which bowl you would like to use.

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