Raku Tea Cup


春の夜 歴史背負うの 楽茶碗

spring night -
a RAKU tea cup
with so much history

© PHOTO Tokugawa Art Museum

Watching a TV program about the raku tea cups.

The firing process is quite different from the large Bizen noborigama kiln I am used to. And the traditional and modern activities of the present head of the household are tremendous.

The RAKU family is one of the 千家十職、Senke juushoku, the ten artisan families which contributed to the existence of the Omote, Ura and Mushakoji Sen Tea Family.

The RAKU family passes the oral tradition from father to son. Ever master collects some earth and stones for the next generation. The black stones come from a part of the Kamo River near Kyoto. They are well selected, finely crushed and then powdered. They make a kind of finish for the tea cups, giving them the typical black RAKU flavor.

The kiln area, you can see the bellows man in the back.

It takes about one hour for one tea cup. The group of men work around the clock until all cups are finished. This method is seen nowhere else in pottery, but kept here the same way it was 400 years ago.

Firing a black raku cup (rakujawan 楽茶碗) is done just one cup per small kiln. Coal is heaved around and on the kiln after closing and a special helper has to move the bellows all the time to raise the temperature inside to well above 1000 degrees. When the firing is finished, the red hot tea cup is taken out and put outside to get cool. It takes about 500 kg of different types and sizes of coal to fire one set of cups.
Whow, never saw this with the Bizen firing, where a huge kiln takes 10 days to fire and 10 days to cool, before it can be opened.

A cup taken out of the kiln.

Red finish on a raku teacup is fired with four cups in one small kiln. Every generation of a raku master has added something new to the repertoir.
The present Raku is building a new teahouse in cellar section of a large concrete building, the new Raku Museum in Shiga ... modern style adapted to old traditions.

Here is a cup just placed in the small kiln.

Three men with sticks press small pieces of coal around the inner kiln walls before it is covered again and the final firing begins.

On January first, there is a special pottery teaching ceremony for the male members of the Raku family, tenarai hajime 手習始め. Babies are even carried by their mother to participate. First the master makes one teabowl himself. Then each boy makes one, while the father watches them, without giving any instructions. Every boy has to watch carefully and imitate the movements of the master as best as he can. This is a special tradition kept in the Raku pottery family since 400 years.

Click HERE to look at some Rakujawan tea coups from the masters !

Hassaku Tea Ceremony


External LINK

Raku ware, which originated in the 16th century, is a low-fired ceramic ware made in Kyoto by the Raku Family, a family dynasty that is respected for its outstanding tea bowls and tableware (for use in the tea ceremony). The current Raku is Raku Kichizaemon XV.

Raku style Pottery
by Robert Yellin

Hassaku Ceremony for the Senke Tea Family
Hassaku no gi 八朔の儀


Raku's Hand-Held Universes,Unseen Pots of Kamoda Shoji,
& Kiln Firing by Mori Togaku

Read my Haiku Archives


. Tea Ceremony Saijiki 茶道の歳時記 .




Gabi Greve said...

as if in prayer
hands cupped around
bowl of clay.......

Robert Yellin

a new museum just devoted to the 15th generation will open this Sept. in Shiga


Yes indeed, Robert san!
A fascinating way to scratch the clay away from the inside, until all the power is left in good balance !



Gabi Greve said...

Dear Gabi,

I enjoyed your posting on raku ware. Did they point out the Korean influence on Japanese pottery in general, and raku ware in particular?

Chojiro's father was a Korean potter named Ameya (d. 1574), and he is supposed to have made the first of what came to be called raku-style tea bowls around 1525.

The irregularity of the rim and the roughness of surface texture is an aesthetic which originated from Korean pottery.

Your friend.


Dear Friend,
indeed, the Korean influence on Japanese pottery is well known. Thanks for mentioning it.

Check my article on Arita pottery, for example.


Gabi Greve said...

The Imperfections of Life

 Wise man from Japan now the black pope
Father Adolfo Nicolas


Gabi Greve said...

Raku Museum in Kyoto, both Japanese and English language options available:

樂焼 RAKU WARE|樂美術館 - 樂家に伝来する樂歴代作品と茶道工芸美術・樂家文書資料

Anonymous said...

RAKU, Compiled by Steven Branfman,
Author of Raku: A Practical Approach,
Second Edition and
The Potters Professional Handbook.

Anonymous said...

Raku A Legacy Of Japanese Tea Ceramics
A Raku book, edited by Melissa M. Rinne

Raku is one of many low-fired ceramic traditions around the world. Today, the term "raku" is used across America and Europe to denote a kind of low-fired pottery whose technology and aesthetic were inspired by traditional Japanese Raku ware. 'Raku: A Legacy of Japanese Tea Ceramics'
is a catalogue of works in the Raku Museum in Kyoto. The collection contains many of the quintessential masterworks of the over 430-year Raku legacy. Additional works from other collections, mostly those designated as Important Cultural Properties, are included for reference.


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