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Japanese guinomi (sake cup) with gourd design by SASAKI Tadashi

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Japanese Pottery146 of 1353Japanese Minoyaki Shino Ware ochoko by Shusen KilnJapanese meoto yunomi set
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    Posted 2 years ago

    (12 items)

    I found this sake cup (guinomi) at a local thrift shop 17 years ago. It was being sold, together with a small ceramic incense case, for the princely sum of $4.
    At the time I had just begun studying Japanese tea ceremony. When I saw this guinomi, it stopped me in my tracks because it looked exactly like a miniature tea bowl (chawan). And yet it was too small to be a tea bowl! It was most puzzling. Anyway, although I hadn't yet figured out what the cup was to be used for, I finally ponied up the $4 and went home with both items. I later learned that the glaze on both was called Narumi Oribe, a green copper glaze against a white slip.
    Later I was browsing Robert Yellin's website on Japanese pottery when I saw a Kuro Oribe (black glaze) guinomi that was strikingly similar to mine. When I saw an identical potter's mark on its foot, I realized the potter had to be the same individual. It was SASAKI Tadashi (1922-1997), whom Yellin describes as "one of the outstanding Oribe potters of the 20th century." Later I not only confirmed that it was the same individual, I found a Narumi Oribe guinomi - the twin of mine - on a Japanese website with a price tag of 40,000 yen.
    The big difference, of course, is that my $4 guinomi was sold without its tomobako (paulownia box), stamped yellow cloth and paperwork, all of which are considered essential for showing provenance. I've often wondered how this guinomi came to be in the thrift shop. Perhaps its owner had died, and the adult children - knowing nothing about the importance of tomobako or the value of pottery - had thrown out the box and taken the items to fetch what they could.
    In any event, this meant I could afford to own a really beautiful sake cup, and I toast the original owner every time I use it. By the way, Yellin also says of sake that "the rim of a vessel - its thickness, texture and curve - will affect how a liquid distributes itself across the tongue and palate, thereby radically affecting the taste profile and fragrance." I've found that to be true of this cup: drinking from a thin vs. thick section of the rim yields a slight change in the sake's flavour and sweetness! So I am grateful to have such a nice piece to enjoy sake from.

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    1. PhilDMorris PhilDMorris, 2 years ago
      Its lack of perfection seems funny to think "this is the perfection I am looking for'' when I see these 2 beauties !~
    2. kwqd kwqd, 2 years ago
      Good eye, great find!
    3. rhineisfine rhineisfine, 2 years ago
      PhilDMorris and kwqd, thank you both for your kind comments and for loving my guinomi.
      (And in case it's not clear - these are all photographs of a single guinomi. The first shows the front, with 2 gourds; the second is the rear of the guinomi, with 2 gourds; and of course the third shows the kodai or foot ring with its potter's mark. I should have put a line between photos 1 and 2 to make that clearer ;)
    4. kwqd kwqd, 2 years ago
      I always feel like I get my money's worth when something is decorated on all sides. My "new" sake cups came in the mail today and I will do posts for them soon. One signed and one mingei.
    5. racer4four racer4four, 2 years ago
      When I look at Japanese pottery like this I am always attracted to the way they appear almost rustic but are very refined. The green glaze is a delight as are he gourds.
      I am sure it is a very tactile experience drinking from this guinomi.
      We have a lot to learn from the Japanese about using every sense to enjoy a moment, and giving ourselves time to do so.
    6. rhineisfine rhineisfine, 2 years ago
      racer4four, thank you for your sensitive observations. For sure, while I have other sake cups I enjoy, none are as delightful to drink from as this one. It is indeed a very tactile experience. And that blend of rusticity (e.g. earth tones, rough textures) and elegance (precise application of coloured glazes in patterns, smooth surfaces where it matters) is exactly why Japanese pottery is such an addiction. It is a lifelong learning experience!
    7. rhineisfine rhineisfine, 2 years ago
      kwqd, I know what you mean about the multiple decorations! If you get into tea bowls (chawan), you'll see some amazing examples. It's usual in tea ceremony to turn the front of the bowl - usually the bit with the main part of the design - away from oneself when drinking. However, potters often place an additional decoration in exactly the right spot for the enjoyment of the polite guest -- what I call (wholly non-canonically) a "cheater" design :) Sometimes this means a secondary design on the "rear" of the bowl, or it could be a tiny detail that appears on the interior, such as a small blossom that creeps over the rim. In the context of actually drinking a bowl of matcha in the traditional way, these considerations are a really charming and thoughtful touch.
      And I look forward to seeing your latest cups!
    8. rhineisfine rhineisfine, 2 years ago
      Thank you to everyone who loved my guinomi (sake cup): dav2no1, aura, racer4four, Newfld, jscott0363, fortapache, RichmondLori, vetraiao50.
      There, now I think I'm caught up :)
    9. vintagelamp vintagelamp, 1 year ago
      Very interesting! Never saw anything quite like this!
    10. rhineisfine rhineisfine, 1 year ago
      @vintagelamp, thank you for your comment and for "loving" my guinomi!
      You can find a [sold] listing for another guinomi by the same potter here:
      This listing shows a guinomi (sake cup) in black Oribe style; thus the lack of copper-green glaze. You can still see many other features in common, though.
      I personally love Oribe style. It's very modernistic, even though this style first appeared in the 16th century! It was created by, and named after, the visionary tea master Furuta Oribe, and typically features bold geometric/abstract shapes. You can see several historical examples here:

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