Antiques 6-6-09

The bowl pictured is a Hagi piece. Not what I usually expect when I think of Hagi ware. They were produced in number during the Genroku period. A similar one was given as a gift from a person named Mori Motonari to a temple in Hiroshima.   Those checking facts will see there is  about a hundred year gap from the time Mori Motonari died and the start of Hagi pottery so the bowl given by Mori Motonari would have been a prototype.  This particular bowl is called “Daibutsu Chawan”. The writing on the lid of the box was written by the head of temple with a  Daibutsu.  This fact adds about 100,000 yen to the price of the bowl.

In the early 20th. century these types of bowls were used as an auxiliary bowl for tea gatherings. When a large number of guests would attend a tea ceremony the host would put out 10 or so nice tea bowls and the rest would be served with a more pedestrian type of bowl. The bowl would have to be somewhat special but not so much so as to outshine the nicer bowls. That is where these types of bowls would come in to play. They are over 300 years old so they do have specialness in that way but the host would bring out 10 or so of them which would make the commonality of them more obvious. The elder Kawase owned about 20 of these bowls. Pre-war they were much more common. One could go into an antiques shop and buy them by the dozen. Now they are much more expensive. If one has one in a signed box it is very easy to sell them as they are so rare.

Often times the story behind a piece is as interesting as the piece. This bowl was owned by  Mr. Kawase, the father of the 86 year old  dealer I often go to to learn. The elder Mr. Kawase was born in Meiji 21, 1888.

He held a number of positions. He was on one of the committees that decided which pieces were given the designation of Important Cultural Property. In his day there were panels of 10 or so judges that would examine a piece and all 10 would have to agree for the piece to get the designation. He would often be the only dissenter. In one case related to me there were some pieces that came up that were from the  Shosoin (or here) repository. Mr. Kawase refused to certify one lacquer piece after everyone else had given the OK. The reason being that there were some repairs that made it more of  a hybrid than a pure example. I learned that even with the reputation that Shosoin enjoys here in Japan the store rooms are not in perfect order with many pieces having the lids mixed with other pieces or being in disaray in other ways.

I have included a couple of photocopies that pertain to the elder Mr. Kawase. One is an auction round up from a partial selling off of his sword collection.   The entry in the lower left shows a price of 1,680 yen for one sword. This is in an age when 1,000 yen would buy a house.  I have also included a page from a sword  exhibition catalog page. The exhibition was held after he died. Is shows a number of Important Cultural Property designated pieces. Actually the majority of the swords in  his collection held that designation.


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