The aesthetics of Japanese tableware are both fascinating and mysterious. So many beautiful shapes, colors and sizes. Japanese cuisine is truly food and tableware combined. The union of the two creates a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. The food is created and arranged by the chef who carefully decides how to plate which food on which dish, in order to set both off to the best advantage. This is a lovely and respectful way to honor both the artist who created the dish, and the guest who will appreciate not only the taste, but the arrangement as well.
The pottery includes earthenware, stoneware and porcelain among others. The different types are generally referred to by the name of the location where they were originally made (Arita, Kiyomizu, Imari, etc.). The style and glazes also distinguish one type from another. Traditionally, the pieces were changed during the seasons, much like clothing; storing away one set until the proper season for use came around again. There is even a special word for this: utsuwa-gae. Color, size, thickness and texture were among the variables that changed according to the four seasons.
Like to buy a little something for your table? Here are some recommended ideas for a place setting for one: chopsticks and a chopstick rest; cold noodle tray with bamboo strainer mat; dipping sauce cup; hot noodle bowl; rice bowl; soup bowl; 2 or 3 shallow 4" diameter dishes; same amount of same diameter 2" deep small bowls; 4" long rectangular flat plates (for fish, traditionally); 2" diameter condiment plates.
Japanese tableware can be used in a western style table setting just as well as in a traditional Japanese setting. Mix and match as you please! The most important thing is to purchase something that you love and enjoy using.
Briefly, here are some well-known pottery festivals and markets where you will find all sorts of pottery in a wide range of prices.
Mashiko Pottery Fair (Tochigi): April 29 - May 6, 2015
Mashiko Pottery Fair was first held in 1966. Twice yearly during holiday seasons, a total of approximately 600,000 visitors check out about 500 tents selling traditional Mashiko pottery, ranging from dishes to modern art pieces.
For more information about Mashiko Pottery Fair, visit here.
Arita Ceramic Fair (Saga): April 29 - May 5, 2015
Every year tens of thousands of world-wide visitors come to visit the over 600 shops selling all kinds of pottery. You can even test your artistic chops by learning how to make your very own ceramic creation!
For more information about Arita Ceramic and pottery experiences, visit here.
Setomono Festival (Aichi): September 12 & 13, 2015
This is one of the three largest pottery fairs held in Japan. More than 200 shops are set up along the Seto River and more than a half-million visitors come annually. Fireworks and other fun events are also held during the festival.
For more information about the festival, visit here.
Shigaraki Ceramics Festival (Shiga): October 10 - 12, 2015
Shigaraki has one of the six oldest kilns in Japan. You can enjoy meeting and talking to the artists selling their wares in tents, in parking lots, etc. while you browse to your heart's content!
For more information about pottery experiences in Shigaraki, visit here.
Kutaniyaki Pottery Festival (Ishikawa): May 3 – 5, 2015
Over 20,000 items including dishes, tea cups, vases, etc. ranging from high-end Kutaniyaki pottery to everyday wares.
Visit here to learn more about the Kutani ceramics.
In addition, there are many workshops and pottery - making classes throughout Japan. Come and visit these cities and start your collection of Japanese tableware!
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