Japanese tea home lets guests drink from $25,000 vintage bowls

(CNN) – Collaborating in an historic Japanese custom, sipping from a $25,000 vintage bowl, and even getting a bit of Nineteen Seventies “Austin Powers” vibe.

It might all be a part of the expertise at Okubo Gallery in Tokyo’s Yanaka district, the place antiques vendor Mitsuru Okubo and his household provide a standard Japanese tea ceremony expertise with a twist — a number of bowls starting from new to greater than 300 years outdated, with among the museum’s older gadgets high quality value as a lot as $25,000.

The concept behind the gallery is for the customer to really feel the bowls and style the drink because the Japanese masters of the tea ceremony would have it – and at an inexpensive worth. It’s artwork and historical past accessible to the plenty.

In fact, if you happen to escape in a chilly sweat serious about what would occur if you happen to dropped a $25,000 18th century bowl, there are some trendy alternate options.

Coming into the gallery in a quiet aspect avenue, guests are greeted by shows of assorted cups, bowls and plates on the small first flooring. Okubo’s daughter, Atsuko, then emerges from the following room to greet the guests and escort them up the slim stairs to the tatami room on the second flooring, the normal setting for the tea ceremony.

Lodging is made for Western guests in that there are common chairs set into the sunken flooring, so guests do not have to take a seat cross-legged on the ground, as is the Japanese custom – which will be extraordinarily painful if you happen to’re not used to it.

In a small aspect room, tea pots are positioned on a stand with 4 cabinets. These are your decisions, Atsuko explains in English, then factors out some fascinating particulars about every pot, resembling age, origin and the tea grasp who endorsed them.

Atsuko Okubo shows off some of her family's vintage tea bowls that are available for customers to use during the Japanese tea ceremony.

Atsuko Okubo exhibits off a few of her household’s classic tea bowls which can be accessible for patrons to make use of through the Japanese tea ceremony.

Brad Landon/CNN

Atsuko’s concept was to make these vintage bowls accessible to the general public.

As an antiques vendor, her father had collected lots, however gross sales had been gradual on the gallery and many of the bowls had been hidden away, their packing containers gathering mud and bringing no pleasure to anybody. Atsuko thought that using them in a tea ceremony would make the household enterprise stand out from the handfuls of different tea ceremonies accessible to guests to Japan.

However her father curated the bowls, and he is excited so as to add particulars about them. There’s a darkish, broad one from Belgium that was designed for different functions, however the tea grasp discovered it appropriate for the ceremony.

Or a brightly coloured bowl with brightly coloured circles, squares and triangles on it. It seems prefer it was made within the Nineteen Seventies, and you may think about the superspy from the Austin Powers comedian ebook ingesting from it.

That is what makes it particular, says Mitusuro Okubo — it combines the traditional and the trendy. And despite the fact that it is solely about 50 years outdated, it is nonetheless valued at about $15,000.

Atsuko Okubo performs the tea ceremony.

Atsuko Okubo performs the tea ceremony.

Brad Landon/CNN

Okubo exhibits one other bowl about 200 years outdated. To the untrained observer, it seems to have a number of imperfections; it’s not symmetrical and has discoloration.

“Imperfection is human,” says Okubo, and that is what provides this bowl its distinctive worth of hundreds of {dollars}.

He exhibits one other, present bowl. It is lovely, however good. It is value about $100.

“It is good for robots. This vessel is a robotic,” he says.

And the robots are interchangeable, so if a customer is afraid of dropping a $25,000 dish, this one is accessible. It is also good for youths, Atsuko provides, to allow them to share the expertise with their dad and mom, who will not be fearful a few multi-thousand-dollar catastrophe.

Right now’s guests select — a 300-year-old bowl and a bowl from the Nineteen Seventies. Atsuko, wearing a kimono, begins the ceremony.

The tea service is preceded by a sweet cake.

The tea service is preceded by a candy cake.

Brad Landon/CNN

Kneeling at proper angles to the friends, he methodically and intentionally prepares tea.

Utilizing a picket ladle on the top of a protracted stick to attract scorching water from the pot, she locations it in a mixing bowl and stirs the tea with a whisk. The one sounds are the water directed by her actions and the birdsong outdoors.

After the guests are served a candy cake of jelly and bean paste within the form of a hydrangea flower, the tea is transferred to a bowl of the customer’s alternative and served piping scorching.

Following the prescribed ritual, guests elevate their costly bowls, one hand on the aspect and the opposite beneath.

The style is great and complete, a lot in order that one forgets the truth that tens of hundreds of {dollars} value of ceramics are of their fingers.

That is the perfect expertise of Japan.

As Atsuko rigorously places away her provides and bowls, her father ascends the steps bearing presents for the friends — hand-drawn and coloured photos of the bowls every customer used, and the candy dessert that they had, together with explanations of their origins and significance.

Amazingly, drawing solely from reminiscence, Okubo absolutely matched the design of the geometric figures on the Nineteen Seventies bowl. It’s artwork on a really private stage.

Antiques dealer Mitsuro Okubo gives lucky guests an original drawing of their teacups and an explanation of their origins.

Antiques vendor Mitsuro Okubo provides fortunate friends an authentic drawing of their teacups and a proof of their origins.

Brad Landon/CNN

It was an eventful 90 minutes, however wanting again at these cabinets of tens of hundreds of {dollars} value of bowls, one can not help however discover that that is earthquake nation, and sometimes when earthquakes happen, pictures of damaged bowls and slabs shaken from their pillars.


“That is the primary place I’m going when there’s an earthquake,” Atsuko says.

For those who go

The Okubo Gallery is open from Wednesday to Sunday, from 11 a.m. to six p.m. The tackle is 6-2-40 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo, about quarter-hour’ stroll from Nippori Prepare Station, which is on a number of main prepare traces.

The value for the tea ceremony is ¥2,200 ($16) per individual, and reservations are instructed.

High image: Inexperienced tea served in a 300-year-old vintage vessel. Credit score: Brad Landon/CNN

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