Ido tea bowls

In many areas I am a beginner. Music that was de rigeur for my classmates at college I only got around to listening to in my late 30s, early 40s. I still don’t see the magic of the Beatles. You get the picture.

Ido tea bowls probably fall into this late bloomer aspect of mine. The pinnacle of  the Japanese tea world, I have only, after almost 15 years of making ceramics, given them a closer look. Of course I have known the name and could do a basic identification of them, but I have known next to nothing about them.

These  are pictures from my last trip to the two antiques stores I am studying at. There is detailed information on each item if you click the picture.

I went this last Saturday to the antiques shop I have been going to to learn more about old ceramics, the newest pieces from my most recent firing in tow. The shop I usually start my day at wasn’t quite open yet so I headed to the shop I  only go to with my wife. She does the dirty work of yelling into the ear of the nearly deaf owner as I sit there and busily take notes, photograph, map out the next question in a regular conversational voice, and generally marvel at the treasures before me. I walked in to see no one around. Not unusual since besides not being able to hear the door chimes the owner has a habit of sleeping in an adjacent room, snoring loudly. After a minute  out came the owner, wife and the accountant. The wife curtly informed me she was taking him to the dentist and that she was his wife.  I was wondering why she has reversed the phonemes for wife. Naika instead of kanai.   At any rate, when they came out and told me the situation I said it was nice to meet you, Ms. wife, I will  take only a minute of your time and whipped out the two pieces I had brought. A bowl and a sake cup, a guinomi. I had no sooner set the sake cup down than Mr. Kawase looked at it, asked how much, and bought it. It is a great compliment to me to have him buy my work.

When I finally told my wife this unusual way of saying wife in Japanese she pointed out naika is another word for doctor, something I knew already but hadn’t connected in the context. I guess she was going to go to the doctor, he to the dentist. I later went back with my wife to take the pictures that I have in this post and found out where the cup he bought from me will be used. Mr. Kawase has a restaurant in the middle of Nara park, the same park that is famous for its deer. He has a lunch special that comes served on antique dishes, mostly from the Momoyama era, 1573–1615. It seems some of the more enthusiastic diners forgetfully  walk off with the sake cups tucked inside their pockets. There may go my guinomi, but for the grace of God.

Both antique dealers I visited that day, upon me setting my bowl down, said something to the tune of Oh,  an Ido teabowl. That is how this last Saturday became my introduction to Ido teabowls.

Now I haven’t exhaustively researched what I learned but what follows is a summation from the dealer who is also a scholar on Korean and Chinese ceramics.

Ido tea bowls.

The points that are essential.

1) Shape, at least 20% of the shaping takes place after throwing, during the turning of the bowl. This final shaping centers around the foot.

2)Color, biwa is the necessary color. A pale yellow.

3) Crawling, or kairago in Japanese, around the foot. I guess this could be called beading. A lot of the fake bowls and bowls made today are double dipped in the glaze to get a crawling effect around the foot. There are a lot of fakes floating around. The fake price point seems to be 150,000 yen here in Japan.

4)The turning of the foot, that is to say the shape of the foot and the bottom of the foot. It should also have a low foot. The bowls that have a tall foot are actually called Goki chawan and are completely different.

5)The mouth should be almost imperceptibly flared.

6)Chadamari. There should be a small indentation at the bottom of the bowl which is called  a chadamari in Japanese.

Now for the meat.

The only true Ido bowls are from the Richo shoki era, that is to say the early Korean period. The clay is not a porcelain, it is a very sandy whitish clay.

There are no original Richo shoki Ido tea bowls left in Korea. They started being brought over to Japan around the time of Sen No Rikyu in the  Momoyama period and had been largely brought over by the beginning of the Edo period. By the middle of the Edo there were no more left in Korea.

They weren’t made as tea bowls originally, but as everyday bowls for use around the house.

There are basically 4 types of Ido.

Oido, 大井戸、 the big tea bowls。

Koido,小井戸, see here, the small Ido。 This is easy to confuse with  古井戸, see here , which is pronounced “furuido” at least according to the article. I am unsure how tea people pronounce it. If you look at this page which focuses on tea bowls, it gives a primary reading of “koido” for 小井戸 and a note that says it may also be called a 古井戸 but doesn’t give a reading for the kanji ‘古’ although the kanji has a on yomi of  “ko”. This page gives a reading of “koido” for both 小井戸 and 古井戸. It is correct to read both as “koido” which may be why the wikipedia gives a reading of furuido to clarify.  Nothing like the clarity of the Japanese language.

Aoiido, blue Ido. Just a note, ao, 青, blue in English is the word for the ‘go’ light on a traffic signal which most people would call green. I have translated it as the Japanese would do. If you look here at the third entry there is a picture and it looks more blue than green to me.

Idowaki. ??? The waki kanji is the same as for underarm. This kind of bowl, although included in the Ido class, is listed as very different from the other Ido bowls. This page says this type is very close to Ido, therefore it is called an Ido.

The shard pictured is from a kiln located about an hour from Pusan going easterly. It was picked up by the owner of the antique shop I took the picture in.

Here are some links, in Japanese, with lots of pictures. Interestingly enough I couldn’t readily find pictures here of Ido bowls, even though some are national treasures.

This link has the points of the tea bowl labeled and a map listing the important kiln sites ruins in Japan.
This link has a lot of photos. The first bowl has exceptional kairago, crawling. Of special interest to me is the bowl pictured third, that is to say, the third picture. It is named Totoya. Totoya is the name given to a number of bowls. It is unclear why the name was given. Totoya means fish seller, fish store. Either a rich fish vendor was collecting the bowls and naming them after himself or herself, think Armand Hammer, or they were bowls picked by Sen No Rikyu as tea bowls at fish markets. I lean toward the first explanation.

More photos.

More photos, some the same as the ones above.


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11 Responses to “Ido tea bowls”

  1. andy Says:

    hi david,
    that’s a great and very informative post. thanks. i have only had a few minutes between classes to check the links, but the photos are great.

    you said:

    “The bowls that have a tall foot are actually called Goki chawan and are completely different.”

    so is the kizaemon ido tea bowl a Goki chawan or Ido chawan? some of the chawans in your post had some pretty low feet, like the totoya tea bowl. but the kizaemon bowl has quite a high foot, as do many of the “Ido” style bowls here in korea.

    i really like to foot on the kizaemon bowl, with no negative space, but sometimes feel a lower foot is more practical, for eating anyway.

    i have also enjoyed taking to referring to them as “traditional Korean rice bowls” not tea bowls. they work great for that, too.

    i really enjoyed looking online at some of the Ido chawan from Nara potter Shiro Tsujimura. have you seen his?

  2. togeii Says:

    Hello Andy,
    The bowls I posted pictures of are not Ido, including the Totoya bowl. I think the Goki criterion is just a guideline. I will have to take a look at the Kizaemon bowl. With a name like Kizaemon Ido I can’t really presume to call it anything other than an Ido. There is a characteristic to Ido that I didn’t write about. The presence of me ato, I guess you could say markings on the inside of the bowl from being stacked when fired. I think the Kizaemon doesn’t have them. I should also note when I asked the antique guy for characteristics on Ido he was at first hesitant to hand any criterion out. I would say there aren’t any hard, if this isn’t in it it doesn’t make the cut type of criteria.
    Tsujimura lives about 5 minutes from me so I hear a lot about him from my neighbors. He is a very interesting person. He actually came up during the conversation at the antique shop. I like him and some of his work. The shino, kohiki and feldspar works fired in an electric kiln don’t do much for me. Either do the large jars made in a mold or the globular vases he makes with a mold and mechanical press. I should note he is a very controversial figure amongst potters. I think one can attribute 80% of that to sour grapes. The site you linked to is run by Robert Yellin. I read an article written by Yellin on Tsujimura wherein Yellin predicted Tsujimura would get a Living National Treasure award. Yellin said that since Tsujimura fires with wood etc, etc, etc,. One problem; Tsujimura doesn’t fire with wood, neither does his son Kai, I don’t know about his oldese son. He fires mostly in an electric kiln, secondly in a gas kiln, and his hikidashi stuff with juyu #1, what ever that is in English. I think light oil or something.
    As I said, I like him and some of his work. I do think he is a master at creating atmosphere. That is the same opinion of the antique owner I talk to. Other potters have a less kind opinion.
    Thanks for your comment.

  3. Words for tea bowls. « Togeii's Weblog Says:

    […] means promise. This means the points that make an Ido teabowl an Ido teabowl. I spelled them out in this post. All points aren’t required to be in each bowl but some of them are required to reach […]

  4. Lee Love Says:

    Most of the Japanese inspired Ido don’t come close to matching the original Korean ricebowls. I have an article in the next Studio potter that speaks to vibrancy the Japan works begin to loose when they stop looking at outside cultures for their inspiration. I use a Ko-kutani Yoshidaya show I saw in Kasama in 2006 and the Idemitsu Shino and Oribe show in 2007 to illustrate the importance of outside influence upon Japanese ceramic work.

  5. Jim Maki Says:

    Togeii: This reply is in regards to your Ido article. Your article is old and you have probably have already received corrections. The O in O Ido means great Ido. Ko Ido means old Ido. Ao Ido means green Ido. Ido Waki, I’m not sure. I have seen it in regards with shallow Ido bowls. The type used for summer. I’ve not seen a meibutsu O Ido with anything but dark clay. There are Ido shaped bowls from other areas. Take care. Jim.

    • togeii Says:

      Hello Jim,
      Thank you for your comment.
      I have put in some more references to explain why I wrote what I wrote. The Ido linked to in my post are famous bowls, meibutsu as you put it. They have a variety of clay types. I hope you take the time to read them over and post your response.
      Thank you,

  6. waltenire Says:

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  7. joseph daws Says:

    thanks for the informative post.
    does anyone know roughly what the old korean ido bowls glaze was made from?
    i read somewhere it was a plum wood ash glaze, and an earthenware firing,
    i am guessing the crawling that sometimes occurs on the foot is where the turning of the foot exposed rough sand in the clay body. do glazes with high feldspar% do this also? anyway beautiful bowls…

    • togeii Says:

      Hello Joe,
      Thank you for reading.
      There is a book in Japanese that has detailed information on Ido bowls. Next time I see it at the library I will take a look.
      I have understood crawling in wood fired bowls to be a function of a number of variables with temperature perhaps being the most important. Of course that assumes the glaze is of a certain thickness although thin glazes crawl too. I asked Nishioka Kyoju one time and he said it is a function of reduction.

  8. rob Says:

    Not the gospel on Tsujimura, but perhaps an observation or two. His oldest son is Kai and youngest is Yui. When I’ve visited him he was firing electric as well as juyu which would equate to heating oil in English I believe. Didn’t see a gas kiln and if it exists it would be propane due to his remote locale. Sour grapes indeed as he is basically self taught which is fairly rare in an apprenticed based tradition like Japan, at least it is for someone to make it as far as he has. National Living Treasure to be???? My guess is that he probably would say thanks but no thanks knowing him as the “black sheep” his is as he’s a loner in many respects which doesn’t fly in a “go along to get along” society such as Japan. I asked him who he respected and he said there is only one other potter, the now deceased Furutani Michio. 腰が低くない。On his oil firing of 3 meter anagamas, he said that he can fire a kiln twice a week while many large anagamas in Japan are fired twice a year….. the learning curve is huge. I told him that people buy the work, not the sweat……. much laughter.

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