Chinese, Korean and Japanese tea bowl usage in Japan from the period 1533-1720

The following data is from a book on Korean Korai  tea bowls that includes all types of bowls including Ido. The name of the book is “Korai Tea Bowls” by Tani Akira and another person I can’t figure out the name of. The data comes from page 13 of the book.  The table breaks the period from 1533 through 1720 into 10 year periods. Using records from ochakai, tea ceremonies, it gives the percentage by country of origin of tea bowls. The number of ochakai records the data was compiled from is given in the fifth column with the sixth column giving the number of unidentified bowls that were used but no country of origin was given. The decades where the unidentified bowls were a large percentage of the total bowls used in the decade will make the total for the three countries not add up to 100%.  The period covered in the table spans the middle of the Muromachi period through to the middle of the Edo period.

The chart shows a remarkable decline in usage of Chinese made bowls. It shows a stable use of Korean bowls for at least the first hundred years of the period. The period from 1601-1610 is the peak of Japanese production. This period coincides with the end of the Azuchi-Momoyama period. The peak for number of ochakai is the decade between 1581-1590. There was a peak in the decade 1701-1710.

Number of tea gatherings Number of
Year China Korea Japan the data was gathered from. unidentifiable bowls.
1533-50 94% 2% 4% 99 0
51-60 74% 20% 6% 469 0
61-70 69% 21% 10% 602 0
71-80 64% 20% 15% 977 3
81-90 55% 20% 23% 1027 16
91-00 10% 28% 60% 149 3
1601-10 6% 16% 78% 121 0
1611-20 18% 24% 38% 125 26
21-30 25% 46% 26% 212 7
31-40 21% 51% 16% 278 32
41-50 7% 49% 43% 444 3
51-60 6% 42% 50% 469 11
61-70 1% 43% 49% 163 11
71-80 0% 42% 53% 204 10
81-90 4% 34% 60% 403 7
91-00 5% 44% 41% 239 24
1701-10 3% 66% 15% 1115 175
1711-20 18% 46% 26% 185 19

The fact that there are records as detailed as these is remarkable. I have heard that the ochakai records are very detailed indeed. They record who came, what was given and received as a gift, etc. This table interests me because it shows the demand for bowls from each country. I think for potters there is an idea that the market is in a state of stasis that need not concern them. I know in my own ceramics there is often so much to deal with that thinking what the market is up to or how it is changing often seems beyond what I am capable of doing. I have seen the Japanese market change dramatically in the 15 years I have been here. When I came here it seems there were far fewer “university” type potters showing in galleries. I am sure someone can prove me wrong but it seems that way to me. By university type potters I mean potters that buy clay that has been highly refined and use professionally formulated glaze on very thinly made ware. I can go on and on but that isn’t the point, the point is that the market changes and is changing even though it is difficult to see if one is in the thick of it.  I see in using my own ceramics or (here) in my daily life that using lighter and thinner ware is more convenient even if that type of ware isn’t what I “want” to make.


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