I introduce now on Thés du Japon a series of accessories, hôhin, cups, yuzamashi, shiboridashi, created by the famous Uji workshop, Asahi-yaki.
I must say that for some time I became completely addicted to the series of blue glazed “kahinseiki” porcelain and recently I almost exclusively use this porcelain hôhin for brewing my Japanese teas. This is a good opportunity to rediscover my teas infused in porcelain, something that was not really my habit.
Although these porcelains are a bit heavy, especially compared to the earthen versions (which are also glazed), visual appearance, shapes and colors, the handling and the use in general of this hôhin for tea are a real pleasure.
With these hôhin, we note the large and very fine filter, unusual for this type of object, the lid that perfectly suited, the month in a “3-day Moon” shape at the filter, preventing leaks when pouring, and the very characteristic rim setback on the side which allow a very simple removal of the leaves after use. I love the elegance of the shape of the spout.
The origins of this workshop, where the leaders change from father to son for 16 generations, backs to the early 17th century. This kiln is opened on the banks of the River Ujigawa on the shore opposite to that where is the Byôdô-in. Today, we can go there, which is a pleasant walk as places are very nice. Uji were then the center of tea production, while the tea ceremony was flourishing under the influence of Sen Rikyû. From the first generation, Asahi-yaki were completely dedicated to the design of bowls and other accessories for sadô and worked under the instruction of Kobori Enshu, feudal lord, but also (and especially) very influential tea master. Most of the traditions of Japanese pottery existed before the tea ceremony, and adapted to their works to it, but a tradition created for the only purpose of creating tea accessories is not a unique phenomenon, but still a very rare thing.
The first three generations continued to produce highly appreciated objects of this world. It is earthen production, ceramics made from clay from the surrounding mountains.
But with the shift of the center of power and cultural life from Kyôto to Edo (future Tôkyô), from the 4th to the 7th generation, Asahi-yaki experienced dark times, and extended its production to tiles.
With the eighth generation, Chôeei, the workshop get in relation with to the noble family Niwata thanks to a major tile order for repairs following the rebellion of Hamaguri doors (1864). This is the end of a hard period for Asahi-yaki. It was then that Asahi-yaki also began producing accessories for sencha, appeared in the previous century, and whose practice gave its form to the sencha-dô, the “sencha ceremony”.. It should be noted that even today in Kyôto, one prefer rather hôhin for quality teas than Kyûsu. A lots of shaded teas, Gyokuro or kabuse-cha, are produde in this area, teas which are brewed with very warm and few quantity water, so that the handle of a Kyûsu is not really useful.
This is an aside, but in the 1920s, Matsubayashi Tsurunosuke, younger brother of the 13th Asahi-yaki chef moved to England and brought a technical supports to the beginning of the workshop of Bernard Leach just back from Japan.
Today Asahi-yaki product bowls, mizusashi, cha-ire for matcha the tea ceremony, but also cups, yuzamashi, hôhin and shibori-dashi, clay and porcelain. This is Hôsai, 15th generation, who is the current leader, but the atelier is also widely supported by his son Matsubayashi Yûsuke, which creates works that I present today.
Yûsuke is a true tea lover, which passion greatly influences his work.
I let you admire.