Matchstick Blinds Buying Guide

Matchstick Blinds

すだれ

There’s something romantiac about matchstick blinds, especially the Japanese shades that you see in and on traditional homes such as this Machiya. Called Sudare in Japan, hanging Japanese shades around your home is a way to bring an instant rustic charm to your home.

Sudare on a traditional Japanese Machiya home

Image: gorian21, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53356982

What are the advantages of matchstick blinds?

Curtains have a way of trapping in heat. Matchstick blinds are made of bamboo or wood, materials that don’t conduct heat well, and have gaps between each stick that allow air to pass and flow. They also have the advantage of being able to be placed outside a room. This means that even if they get so much direct hot rays that they start to heat, the heat dissipates into the open air rather than into your room. They can free up room inside by lessening the need for curtains.

Woven wood and matchstick blinds also maintain a level of transparency in the small gaps between pieces of wood, which means they are ideal for spaces where you still want a view of outside, but don’t want to be open to direct sunlight.

The 3 biggest things to think about when buying Matchstick Blinds

 

1. Where do you need them

Inside or Outside?

In Japan, they are more commonly used outside, often being placed quite far forward from windows, creating a “2nd-space” effect, almost akin to a quasi-veranda. The idea of having different layers, or lines around a space, that Alex Kerr refers to as limination in his book Another Kyoto, is common in Japanese architecture. Sometimes these blinds will be in line with a Noren hanging curtain at the entrance.

Putting your matchstick blinds outside blocks the heat before it has a chance to come in the room and get you back some indoor space.

On the other hand, matchstick blinds in the outdoors won’t last as blinds indoors. They are also harder to raise or lower as the sun moves and you want to change the level of shade.

 

2. What size do you need?

This is the obvious one, but, surprisingly often overlooked right back at the start of the searching process. Measure twice, cut once applies to purchasing as well. It can be worth investing in shades that are custom made to the size you require.

 

3. What are matchstick blinds made of?

The most common material for matchstick blinds is bamboo. In the wider category of woven wood blinds, you will find a large range of woods used, usually cut into larger pieces than the matchstick style blinds. More recently, you increasingly find blinds made of synthetic materials also. 

Japanese shades are either made of bamboo or reeds (ashi).

So we’ll get into more details about choosing the best blind below but if you just want to know what our top recommendations are then here’s our top three.

#1 Bamboo Blinds by GX & XD

Pros

  • Fine Bamboo Weave
  • EXTERIOR AND INTERIOR USE: Ideal For Patio Or Porches, But Can Also Be Used indoors. 
  • Install on window or door frame with two provided hooks
  • Simple, rustic design
  • All hardware and instruction included

Cons

  • Corded – can be dangerous for young children when not installed correctly

#2 Bamboo Blinds by PLLP

Pros

  • Exterior or Interior Uses
  • Solid, Durable Upper Rale
  • Simple, rustic design
  • All hardware and instruction included

Cons

  • No custom installation hardware
  • Corded – can be dangerous for young children when not installed correctly

#3 Bamboo Blinds by PLLP

Pros

  • Indoor or Outdoor Use
  • Distinctive Light & Shade Design
  • Hand-woven, exquisite workmanship,it is the best choice for your home decoration.
  • Various Sizes

Cons

  • No custom installation hardware
  • Various sizes available, but no custom size offer
  • Corded – can be dangerous for young children when not installed correctly
Sudare house!

How To Hang Matchstick Blinds – Is it Easy?

One of the attractions about matchstick blinds is that they are generally super easy to hang. If you can manage to put up a couple of hooks to hold up your blinds, then that’s usually about all you really need to figure out.

That being said, some of the blinds do come with their own custom mounting systems and they can get as complex or as simple as you want them to be. At the risk of sounding facetious, how long is a piece of string? 

 

Should you put lining on the back of bamboo blinds?

Some people do choose to put lining on the back woven wood or matchstick blinds. They do this to either increase the privacy provided by the blinds, or provide insulation and/or protection from the elements.

The trade-off in doing this is that you are often getting rid of many of the things that make matchstick blinds attractive in the first place ie their ability to provide shade while still allowing air to circulate through them and their tendency to disperse, and not hold in, heat.

 

Do matchstick blinds provide privacy

Matchstick blinds are generally fairly see through, so are not a good option if you are wanting to maintain a level of privacy. This being said, this is one of the very things that actually makes people like these blinds. If you have a nice view, you can get shade while still being able to make out, say, the beautiful mountain or fields in the distance. They also can be used to create a sense of intrigue by allowing people outside to see in somewhat without being able to get “the full picture”. In ancient times in Japan, people granted an audience with the Emperor would see him through a matchstick blind, to facilitate communication without revealing all of the regent’s mystery.

#4 Painted Bamboo Blinds

Pros

  • Feature piece with Sumi-E style grosing bamboo illustration
  • Indoor or Outdoor Use
  • Distinctive Light & Shade Design
  • Various Sizes
  • Includes installation hardware

Cons

  • Picture design not suitable for all spaces
  • Various sizes available, but no custom size offer
  • Corded – can be dangerous for young children when not installed correctly

#5 Dark Bamboo Shades

Pros

  • All natural materials
  • Distinctive dark tone
  • Interior or exterior use
  • Elegant drawstring Design
  • All hardware and instruction included
  • Includes mounting equipment and instructions
  •  

Cons

  • Corded – can be dangerous for young children when not installed correctly

Japanese Shades and bamboo blinds in Japan

Types of Japanese blinds

Japanese bamboo blinds can be widely separated into Kakesudare 掛け簾 (Hung Sudare) and Tate Sudare 立て簾 (Standing Sudare). The hung blinds are the ones that most people would be relatively familiar with. Within Standing Sudare, the most common is the Yoshizu 葦簀. Yoshizu are named after the reed called Yoshi, from which they are made of. They are large panels of weaved reed that are leaned against a space to provide shade. 

Within Sudare, the classical style that characteristically uses green cloth or brocade edging are known as Misu. These are the sort that are depicted in classical works including the Tale of Genji and were often used to divide the large open rooms of aristocratic and ruling military classes. They tend to make a feature of the draw strings and tassels used to hold and draw the blinds.

Free standing Yoshizu

Japanese blinds in Japanese culture

Sudare are referenced as far back as the Manyoshu 万葉集, the oldest known anthology of Japanese poetry from the 8th century.

Japan has various more or less set words, called Fubutsushi 風物詩, that are considered symbols of the seasons. Sudare can be used as a shorthand indicator of the season of summer in Japan. Instead of saying in a poem “summer came and we were hot” you could say “the sudare barely swayed as the people struggled to sleep” and no one would doubt what time of the year the action was taking place in.

Misu Sudare in the Tale of Genji

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Other Recommended Japanese Home Items

Contributor

Hi, I’m Peter.  I lived in Japan for four years as a University student completing a Masters Degree in Musicology.  I have succesfully completed the  highest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (N1).  have toured the country six times playing music and singing songs in Japanese and English.

Zabuton Cushions and Sitting Pillows

Get on down

座布団

You hear a lot about how sitting in chairs all the time is not good. Well, one thing you can try is to break it up with some floor sitting time. Zabuton’s (occasionally written as Zabutan) are Japanese floor cushions that help get you down to the floor. We’ll talk a bit more about these spiffy pillow seats for the floor later, but first let’s go ahead and show you our very favorites that we’ve found online.

We’ve got a complete guide to Japanese Home Decor here.

1. Classic Sahiko Zanmai

Pros

  • High Quality Crafted Item
  • Made In Japan
  • Cushion & Removable Cover Set (washable)

Cons

  • Only Ships to certain countries

2. Classic Enshu Weave, Muted Tone Zabuton

Pros

  • Genuine Japanese crafted piece
  • “Meisen” 銘仙 style of weaving popular in women’s fashion from the early to mid 20th century
  • Using Enshu Tsumugi 遠州綿紬 techniques from Shizuoka region of Japan
  • Understated stylish design

Cons

  • Not washable – just air out
  • Only Ships to certain countries

3. Gold Hattan Zabuton Cover

Pros

  • Equisite gold patterning in tradional Japanese design
  • Made of Hattan 八端織りfabric. Hattan is thickly woven kimono fabric that is durable and often used in padded kimono or Futon coverings.
  • Cover can be added to existing cushion to “Japanify” it!
  • (Size) : about 62 x 64 cm / about 24.4 x 25.19 inch

Cons

  • Need to buy separate cushion

Zabuton Size Chart

There are 7 standard zabuton sizes, each with it’s own unique name. The most common sizes are the Meisen size 55cm×59cm and the Hattanban 59cm×63cm. According to the Japanese Industrial Standards the Momen size is considered equivalent to S size, the Meisen to size and the Hattanban to L size. A full list of all the sizes can be found in the below chart.

At the risk of stating the obvious, as a general rule, the bigger the person, the bigger zabuton you will need. This means that for most westerners you are best off looking from around the Hattanban size and up.

Zabuton Size NameWidthLength
Kozabuton (小座布団)40~50cm40~50cm
Chasekiban (茶席判)43cm47cm
Momenban (木綿判)51cm55cm
Meisenban (銘仙判)55cm59cm
Hattanban (八端判)59cm63cm
Donsuban (緞子判)63cm68cm
Meotoban (夫婦判)67cm72cm

How to look after a Zabuton

  • Can I wash a zabuton?

Generally not. Some are machine washable but these are in the minority. Check the tag!

  • Do I need to air out my zabuton?

Yes, generally people in Japan shake out their floor cushions regularly to remove dust and particles and air them out for several hours in the sun.

  • How do I clean a zabuton?

It is fairly common to put zabuton into dry cleaning in Japan. Outside of Japan, it can be more hit and miss as to which dry cleaners will accept zabuton.

History and symbolism of zabuton

The use of Zabuton goes back to the Kamakura  (1185–1333) period. They were originally associated with people of high rank and priests, so they still are still commonly used a symbol of status. This can be seen today in customs including the throwing of zabuton at Sumo wrestling tournaments when spectators feel that are particularly outstanding victory has been won, and in the use of Zabuton by Rakugo traditional comedy performers. 

Around the 

4. Home Of Wool Large Zabuton with Handle

Pros

  • 100% OEKO-TEX-certified wool filling
  • Customize your material to match your preferred aesthetic.
  • Artisanal, handcrafted meditation cushion
  • Carry handle to be portable for meditation meets etc.
  • Guaranteed to never include any potentially dangerous chemicals. 
  • Large Size: 27″ x 33″ x 2″ (69 x 84 x 5 cm).
  • For custom sizes available

Cons

  • Light color is harder to keep clean

5. Jumbo Zabuton Meditation Mat Black

Pros

  • Suits tall people 6′ 1″ and over
  • Approximately 36″ long and 30″ wide
  • Outer cover made of cotton twill fabric
  • zipper along one length so that cushion can be easily removed and washed
  • Filled with natural kapok stuffing for soft and more resilient than cotton batting
  • Kapok is more environmentally friendly than cotton

Cons

  • Plain design – best for practical non-decorative purposes

6. Tatami Zabuton

Pros

  • Natural straw
  • Memory foam core
  • Simple & stylish tatami design
  • Ideal for rustic interiors
  • 65*65*4.5cm
  • 55*55*4.5cm

Cons

  • Not Made-In-Japan product

7. Natural Rush Zabuton

Pros

  • Hand-woven
  • All-natural materials
  • High-density rubber filler makes it soft and comfortable.

Cons

  • Not as comfortable as some other options for sitting a long time.

Contributor

Hi, I’m Peter.  I lived in Japan for four years as a University student completing a Masters Degree in Musicology.  I have succesfully completed the  highest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (N1).  have toured the country six times playing music and singing songs in Japanese and English.

Noren Curtains

Japanese Noren Curtains

のれん

You may have seen Japanese Noren Curtains at the front of shops, as curtains for doorways, sento bathes and nosen hot sprints, Izakayas in Japan or in our Japanese Home Decor roundup. Japanese door curtains are great way of separating out a space while having it remain accessible. 

Let’s cut to the chase by showing you what our three favourite Japanese noren curtains available online are:

  • One of the most characteristic Noren in bathhouses throughout Japan
  • Featuring the hiragana character for “Yu”, hot water.
  • Good quality, thick cotton
  • 59″ (150cm) length and dark, non-see through color provide privacy
  • Size:W850×H1500(33.5″×59″)
  • Made in Japan
  • Thick linen cloth
  • Non synthetic materials
  • Beautiful rich color
  • Exclusive pattern printed on one side, handmade with great care
  • Size: 33.5×47.2 inches (85×120 cm)
  • Linen material
  • Double-layer Lock Edge
  • Koi fish symbolize perseverance and abundance in Japan
  • Briliant color
  • Telescopic Rod  Included For Hanging
  • Comes in a range of sizes

Now that we’ve got that out of the way let’s get into the nitty gritty, because really Noren are a matter of horses for courses, or curtains for circumstances. 

How to choose a Noren

 

How to choose a noren curtain

Alex Kerr has written about the sense of the “liminal” in Japan in his masterful essential-reading-for-any-Japanofile book Another Kyoto, where you often have symbolic lines placed to seperate out a space. You see these in Japanese gardens with borders of rocks, in housing design with wooden beams or the brocade on a tatami mat, and, perhaps most representatively, in the gates that exist without a wall at the entrance of temples. These dividers are there to give you the sense that you are moving to a new area, physically, psychologically, spiritually. Japanese door curtains are a classic example of this.

1. Decide the space you want to “separate out” using a noren as a symbolic border.

Most common areas that people like to place noren curtains:

  • Front entrance
  • Bathroom entrance
  • Kitchen Entrance
  • Middle of room as a divider
  • Bedroom
  • Back entrance 
  • Shop entrance style Noren
  • Character says “noodles”
  • Material: Canvas. 
  • Size: 85cm x 120cm (33.46″ x 47.24″).

2. Decide how much space you want to block out. Eg. What size Noren curtain do you need?

Up to 90 cm (35 inches)

These are good for kitchens either at home or in a restaurant. People can see what is going on but there is a level of privacy with the face being out of view. You can carry things, such as plates, easily beneath them without the curtains getting in the way. Small children can pass beneath them without touching them at all, meaning they are less likely to get dirty or pulled on. They generally leave you without about 130cm of room between the floor and the bottom of the noren.

Short Noren

  • A “kitchen” or “restaurant” style short Noren
  • Text advertises Japanese dishes Okonomiyaki, Udon and Yakisoba noodles.
  • Multiple slits for easy coming and going
  • Length : 145cm 57.1 inches, Height: 85cm 33.5 inches

130cm (51 inches)

These will generally hide a person down to around their knees or waist, meaning you will still be able to see their feet and get a sense of who is behind them without actually seeing the whole person. They are still relatively easy to fold or move through but they will start to block out a significant amount of light. 

Use cases include a back door where you want to block out some light but still keep things breezy.

  • Linen
  • Hypoallergenic & Eco-friendly
  • Minimalist design
  • 3 Panels
  • Various sizes available

200cm (78 inches)

A noren curtain this length will stretch close to the floor and provide the most privacy. It will also provide the most insulation effect if you are wanting to hold in some warmth in a space that you don’t want to block off completely with a door. 

Use cases include a doorway between a kitchen and a living room that you move through regularly but want to keep secret, or bedroom where you would like to keep the door open most of the time and still have privacy.

  • Traditional Ukiyo Print
  • Available in short to long sizes up to 180cm (71 inches)
  • Linen
  • Plate Printed Typical Japanese Pattern On Hand-woven Linen fabric.
  • Good size for most doors.

3. How much light do you want to block out: Do you want a see-through or opaque Noren curtain?

Once you know the length of the noren you want to use, you can think about how opaque you want it to be. If you want to use a noren to partition a room, then a noren that is relatively see-through can be a good option. I relatively see through noren can also be good for covering off a wardrobe or a pantry. If you want to cover off, say, an entrance to a shower, you may want to go with something less revealing.

  • Sheer, lets light through
  • Summery imagery including wind chimes and goldfish
  • “Shiki no furin” means “four season wind chime”
  • Cotton
  • Size:W850×H1500(33.5 x 59.1 inches)
  • Made in Japan

4. What material do you like (and what is easiest to wash & look after)?

Do you want something heavy to conserve heat, or something light and airy? Do you want something that is nice to touch, or easy to clean and look after?

The three main materials you will find are: 

  • Cotton 
  • Linen/hemp 
  • Polyester

Linen & hemp will give you a soothing “cool” feel to your room. Cotton will give a softer feel.

Polyester is probably the easiest to look after because it is so easy to roll up and clean. Although it may feel a bit cheaper if you look at it up close, and may not last as long as some of the other materials, for most intents and purposes it will serve the purposes. It can be good option for use around a bathroom where you may need to clean the noren regularly. 

 

  • Traditional Ukiyo-e pattern
  • Polyester is easy clean
  • Made in Japan
  • 33.46 x 33.46 x 59.06 inches

5. What pattern do you like? Do you want a “statement” piece or something more subdued?

The last criteria is more a question of personal aesthetic preferences. There is a wide range of designs for noren ranging from the striking and loud to the subtle and understated. Though this is down to taste, it is best to think about the larger aesthetic of the room or rooms you are trying to decorate. Is the surrounding full of colour or using more muted tones. Do you want to make a “feature” of the noren by contrasting or to blend in with what is already there.

  • Striking feature piece
  • 100% Heavy weight cotton linen fabric
  • Handmade block printed Ukiyoe
  • Includes free tension rod
  • Vivid color

Modern Noren

Although there are various “traditional Japanese” looking noren, there are also various options that inspired by modern design and designs from other cultures (notably scandanavian). 

  • Striking modern design
  • Cotton Linen
  • Size: 33.5″ W x 47.2″ L (85 x 120cm)
  • Includes tension rod
  • Pattern printed on one side

Noren with characters

You can also use a Noren to express your fandom. If you need to get some more totoro in your life.

  • Studio Ghibli Authentic License
  • Material: Polyester 100%
  • Size:W850×H1500 cm
  • Made in Japan

Other Japanese home decor items

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Contributor

Hi, I’m Peter.  I lived in Japan for four years as a University student completing a Masters Degree in Musicology.  I have succesfully completed the  highest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (N1).  have toured the country six times playing music and singing songs in Japanese and English.

Japanese Vase Top Ten

Japanese Vases

花瓶

Ikebana Flower Arrangement

There is a big world of Japanese vases out there. There is such a long history and range of styles that is difficult to neatly categorise them in a short time. 

There are a few approaches you can take:

  1. Think about the sort of flower & arrangement you want to display and then look by shape.
  2. Choose by the kind of material you want. Eg. Porcelain, Glass, Ceramic, rough, smooth, earthen, colorful.
  3. Choose by region. Given the bredth of Japanese pottery, the most common way to categorise ceramic goods in Japan is by region.
Some of the major pottery regions of Japan (Image: Chanoyu . com )

To simplify things, we’ve chosen ten of our favorite Japanese vases from a range of styles and regions. Rather than make a futile attempt at an exhaustive categorisation of Japanese vases, these as a representative sample of what is out there.

For an overview of our top items of Japanese Home Decor see our article here.

#1 Rough Tokoname Ware Vase

  • Tokoname ware – Stoneware, and ceramics produced in and around the municipality of Tokoname, Aichi, in central Japan. Tokoname was the location of one of the Six Ancient Kilns of Japan.
  • Height 12cm
  • Distinctively Japanese style ideal for natural, earthy aesthetics

#2 Earthen Shigaraki Ware Vase

  • Beautiful rough hewen Shigaraki – ware piece.
  • Natural earthen tones
  • Size Width23cm X Depth20cm X Height19.5cm

#3 Colorful Kutani Porcelain Vase

  • Exquisite Kutani porcelain ware item.
  • Style was popular with European aristocracy
  • Striking colorful motif on white
  • Features crane motif – symbol associated with long life.
  • 18 x 31cm.
  •  

#4 Modern Shigaraki Ware Vase

  • Outstanding modern twist on traditional Shigaraki Ware techniques
  • Luscious green glaze using Kinsai technique
  • Size Width21cm X Depth21cm X Height24.5cm

#5 Flat Square Large Ikebana Vase

  • Suits “Ikebana” flower arrangement practitioner
  • large 11″ square tiered Ikebana vase. 
  • Constructed of composite engineered wood painted with stone pebble finish in grey.
  • Large 4″ dia. water cup  included

#6 Slim Hagiyaki Gohonte Vase

  • This tall, thin vase uses the gohonte 御本手 technique.
  • Gohonte makes a feature of the pinkish blemishes that happen as a result of the firing process
  • Hand made piece – each one unique
  • Size width10cm X depth10cm X height24cm
  •  

#7 Classic Satsuma Peacock Vase

  • Satsuma vases were hugely popular items in the west from the 19th century
  • Peacock is popular motif symbolising the deity Kannon associated with kindness and good health
  • 18 inch
  • Rich colored item

#8 Minimalist Bizen Vase

  • Minimal, timeless design
  • Earthen feel with metallic tones
  • Characterstic Bizen Ware piece
  • W 12cm x 12cm, H 27 cm.

#9 Refined Arita Porcelain Vase

  • Hand made
  • ARITA-yaki / IMARI-yaki: Imari-yaki is a porcelain made in Arita region of former Hizen Province (today’s Saga Prefecture) in Kyushu, Japan.
  • Originally known as Arita-yaki, named after its production region, it became to be known as Imari-yaki when the porcelain was exported to Europe in the 17th century from Imari port, Saga. Ko-imari, literally old imari in Japanese, refers specifically to Imari ware produced in the Edo period (17th-19th century). Today the name Arita-yaki is distinguished from Imari-yaki: porcelain made in Arita is called Arita-yaki and in Imari as Imari-yaki.
  • DIAMETER: – BODY: L12 × H24.5 × W12 cm – BOX: L15 × H27 × W14 cm
  • MATERIAL: Porcelain

#10 Maple Wood Ikebana Vase

  • Would suit serious Ikebana enthusiast
  • Spalted Maple Wood & Vase Insert Heavy Cast Metal Frog
  •  7.5 x 7.5 x 2 Inch
  • Gallery Quality Vase Holds Water for Fresh Flowers, Dry Flowers or Tea Candle

Look for more Japanese Vase options on Amazon

Look for more Japanese Vase options on Etsy

You may also be interested in:

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Contributor

Hi, I’m Peter.  I lived in Japan for four years as a University student completing a Masters Degree in Musicology.  I have succesfully completed the  highest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (N1).  have toured the country six times playing music and singing songs in Japanese and English.

Japanese Wall Scrolls – Gallery and Selection Guide

Japanese Wall Scrolls

掛け物

Traditional Japanese living rooms feature a set-back recess area called a Toko-No-Ma that usually features some kind of Japanese Wall Scroll and/or Ikebana flower arrangement (also see how article on Japanese decor). The scrolls traditionally feature calligraphy or artworks, most charactistially in the style of a sumi-e black ink.
Traditionally, these were one of a kind artworks, often by artists of renown.
Today, good quality representations can be found that achieve a similar effect at very reasonable price.

A typical Jinbei

Our Favorite Japanese Wall Scrolls

We’ll get into the nitty gritty of different types of Japanese Scrolls below but first of all let’s show you our favourite option for scrolls available online.These are custom scrolls produced by master calligrapher Eri Takase. We love that you can either choose one of the premade scrolls, or work with Takase-sensei to make your own. From Takase-Sensei’s Etsy Page:

“Master Takase creates this beautiful art when your order is placed. Personally preparing the ink and brushing your art that proudly bears her signature and seal. This is truly an original work of art.

The Japanese Scrolls (kakejiku) are special and we are very proud of them. We have worked with our scroll maker in Nara, Japan for more than a decade and these scrolls are exceptional. They have a light brown silk border, gold brocade highlights, and Japanese paper. These fine materials are layered so that when displayed the finished scroll hangs straight and will not warp over time. And the paper takes the ink just right so subtle brush strokes come out just as expected. This beautiful art is meant to last generations.”

The Japanese Wall Scroll Tradition

The Japanese wall scroll has a long history. It was introduced to Japan from China during the Asuka era (592 to 645). In China, these were widely seen as Buddhist imagery for ceremonies during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127).
Japanese scrolls have a deep connection to Zen Buddhism. Hanging scrolls were introduced to Japan through the religion in the Kamakura period (1185–1333).
Introduced from China, Zen Buddhism spread Chinese-style architectural styles and art to Japan along with Buddhist teachings. The technique of ink painting also came in at this time.
Hanging scrolls were initially used for Buddhist rituals. They gradually evolved into an art form in their own right. Styles such as 花鳥画, kachouga “Flower and Bird Paintings”, and 山水画 sansuiga “Mountain and Water Paintings” were also produced.
The development and promulgation of the Japanese wall scroll is intertwined with the development of 水墨画 suibokuga ink painting.
When the tea room was created during the Muromachi period, the hanging scrolls became even more artistic in order to provide accent to the tatami mats on the floors. Sen no Rikyu, who pioneered the modern tea ceremony, also insisted on the importance of hanging scrolls.
From the Edo period to the Meiji and Taisho eras, Japanese scrolls were developed as highly refined interior items decorating various Japanese rooms.

Types of Japanese Scrolls

Japanese wall scrolls can be roughly divided into three types.

sho  “Calligraphy”  絵 e and “Pictures”, and “works that combine both calligraphy and pictures.”

書 “Calligraphy”

Calligraphy works include 漢詩 Kanshi Chinese poems, and Japanese poems in forms including 和歌 waka, 俳句 haiku. Works have been created by, warlords, aristocrats, and monks, as well as modern-day political and business people and poets.

e

Paintings include ink paintings, Japanese paintings, hand drawn ukiyo-e paintings, and Japanese paintings after the Meiji era.

Pictures that are a combination of calligraphy and painting are called 詩画軸 Shigajiku “poetry axis”. These are composed of calligraphy drawn on the upper part of the vertical and pictures drawn on the lower. These works combine Chinese poems, poems, haiku, to match the picture.

There are also hanging scrolls made in Korea, which are similarly influenced by Chinese culture.

日本画 nihonga Japanese painting

Although hanging scroll art is introduced from China, there are many works that have evolved uniquely in Japan, such as 美人画 Bijinga “Paintings of Beautiful People” and 花鳥画 kachouga “Flower and Bird Paintings”.

Japanese wall scrolls are said to have undergone a dramatic increase in value with the rise of the hand-painted Ukiyo-e of the Edo period. During the Meiji and Taisho eras, Japanese scrolls and Japanese paintings existed in a symbiotic relationship where each helped raise the value of the other.

These works are recognized for their high artistic value as antiques.

中国掛軸 chugoku kakejiku Chinese hanging scrolls

The hanging scrolls drawn and displayed by Chinese artists are sometimes called 中国掛軸 chugoku kakejiku.

仏画 Butsuga Buddhist Japanese Scrolls

There are various compositions and types of Buddhist paintings. Motifs include 曼荼羅 mandala, 来迎図 raigouzu which depict the coming of the Amida Buddha, 六道絵 Rokudou-e which depict the six buddhist realms, and 高僧 Koso portraits of high priests.

水墨画 Sansuiga Ink paintings

The 山水 Sansui landscape painting, came to Japan from China along with the idea of Zen and became popular along with the new philosophies..

 

These ink paintings, also called sumi-e, are characterized by delicate and bold expressions using techniques such as “blurring” and “shading”.

花鳥画 Kachoga Flower and bird painting

Japanese Wall Scroll Buying Options

If you are after a Japanese Scroll, your options are for purchasing a scroll are:

  • Prints and Reproductions
  • Custom Made
  • Antiques

 

Prints and Reproductions

You can see a list of reproductions available on Amazon here

Custom & Hand Made

You can see a list of handmade scrolls on Etsy here

Antiques

Matchstick Blinds

Matchstick Blinds Buying Guide

The 3 biggest things to think about when buying Matchstick blinds. What are the best materials for bamboo blinds or Japanese shades. What are sudare, misu and yoshizu?

Read More »
Graded Japanese Reading Practice

Hana Kimura, Her Mother’s Petition and The Rigging of Terrace House

we translate an article from the Shukan Bunshun that outlines how Hana Kimura’s mother, Kyoko Kimura, is petitioning Japan’s broadcasting watchdog to examine how the show Terrace House was set up in a way that ultimately led to Hana’s demise.

Along with the text, we read the article in Japanese, then in English, then sentence by sentence in both languages.

Read More »
Culture

Bape Mask Bargains

If you are in the market for a Bape mask, but don’t want to spend an arm and a leg to pimp out your face.

Read More »

In preparing this article we referred to the Japanese website Antique Kaitori (in Japanese)

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Contributor

Hi, I’m Peter.  I lived in Japan for four years as a University student completing a Masters Degree in Musicology.  I have succesfully completed the  highest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (N1).  have toured the country six times playing music and singing songs in Japanese and English.

Japanese Home Decor – Top 10 items to experience Japan from home

Why leave all the Japan in Japan? Traditional Japanese interior design is characterised by minimalist understatement, the use of muted tones and the delicate interplay of light and shade.
Contemporary Japanese design tends to either build on this aesthetic, or flamboyantly rebel against – most notably in ultra colorful, kawai cute cultural explosions.

With this in mind, our top 10 elements for creating the perfect Japanese Home Decor aesthetic in your home:

  1. Japanese Lighting
  2. Japanese Wall Art
  3. Plants and Vases
  4. Noren
  5. A Japanese Bath
  6. Japanese Cushions (Zabuton)
  7. Japanese Bamboo and Matchstick Blinds
  8. Japanese Curtains
  9. Kotatsu
  10. Japanese Cabinets

#1

Japanese Lighting

japanese home decor

There is no single change you can make in a room that more instantly transforms the overall feel than changing the lighting. 

Indeed, Junichiro Tanizaki’s classic book “In Praise of Shadows” is completely devoted to the subject of light and shade in Japanese aesthetics.

"I often stand in front of the shoji and stare at the bright but not dazzling light coming through the paper.

If you liken the Japanese-style tatami room to a sumi-e ink picture, the shoji would form the lightest part of composition Toko-no-ma alcove the darkest. "

Junichiro Tanizaki

from "In Praise of Shadows"
view book

Japanese interiors are characterised by subtle, moody lighting. Here’s some examples of Japanese lamps and shoji lamps that can help brighten up, in an understated way, a room that is lacking something.
Strictly speaking, a “Shoji” refers to a sliding door with washi paper on it. The term “Shoji lamp” has become synonymous with lights that are made in a similar style to these doors, out of wood and paper or modern materials that reflect this aesthetic. We have a whole section highlighting (see what we did there) our favourite
Japanese Shoji Lights here.

Examples of Japanese Lights & Shoji Lamps Available Online

Look for more Japanese lighting options

#2

Japanese Wall Art

Toko-No-Ma with Japanese Wall Scroll

Traditional Japanese living rooms feature a set-back recess area called a Toko-No-Ma that usually features some kind of Japanese Wall Scroll and/or Ikebana flower arrangement. The scrolls traditionally feature calligraphy or artworks, most charactistially in the style of a sumi-e black ink.
Traditionally, these were one of a kind artworks, often by artists of renown.
Today, good quality representations can be found that achieve a similar effect at very reasonable prices.

We have a page devoted to Japanese scrolls here featuring pictures such as these:

Japanese Posters

Another option is go for something a little less traditional. There are some great Japanese posters around including Japanese movie posters for Western or Japanese movies, or posters for popular anime such as those produced by Studio Ghibli (of which we’ve got a gallery here).

We have a page devoted to Japanese wall art here and Studio Ghibli Poster here.

Japanese poster for classic French film Amelie
Japanese 2001: A Space Odyssey poster
Frances Ha Japanese Poster

#3

Japanese Vases and Greenery

A modern Japanese cafe with shrubbery

Japanese design has a masterful knack of blending the outer world with the innder world and has had a huge influence on the open plan, outside-inside design of modern houses around the world. 

On the larger end of the scale, Japanese houses famously use sliding doors to open up whole sides of a room to the garden. They even have the concept of Shakkei or 借景 meaning “borrowed landscape”, which describes the concept of framing a distant feature, such as a mountain or tree, so that it looks like it is somehow actually part of a room. In this way, the vista becomes endless. 

 

Famous "Borrowed landscape" at Entsuji temple in Kyoto

There is also the idea of the Nakaniwa (中庭)meaning “inside garden”, which describes a garden that exists in a smaller inner quadrangle in the middle of the house.

A more easily executable way to bring the garden inside is to use pot plants and vases. Using indoor shrubbery is tremendously popular in Japan.

We have a post outlining Japanese Vases here. Popular choices include Japanese Cloisonne Vases, Peacock Vases, porcelaine and roughly textured ceramics.

A fantastic & easy way to get a little green into the house is to make a Japanese style Kokedama moss ball. These are really the most space-saving plants that you can use. Basically little balls of soil wrapped in moss, the moss cover becomes the vessel which holds the plant in place. This means you don’t need a pot. You can either hang them from the roof or put them on a small plate. Put them on a dining table, suspend them over a balcony, add a little green to a bathroom. 

 

Japan is one of the highest populations in one of the smallest areas on the planet, and as such they have become masters in the efficient use of tight spaces. If you’re trying to beautify a confined apartment or living area, there’s no better lead to follow!

To make things even easier, you could use a premade kit such as this one:

#4

Noren Hangings

Noren Japanese curtain hangings are striking pieces that can turn a doorway into an entrance. Check out our guide here.

#5

Japanese Bathes and Soaking Tubs

It’s hard to go back to a long, shallow Western style bath once you’ve gone deep, both literally and figuratively, into a Japanese bath. It’s one of the few contexts where “up to your neck in it” is a good thing. A great thing even. We think it’s such a great thing that we wrote a whole post all about our favorite Japanese bathes and soaking tubs here.  

After you’ve had your’re Japanese bath, don’t forget to slip on your Jimbei as your post bath PJs either!

#6

Japanese Zabuton Cushions

Japanese people love a little bit of floor time. And they’ve figured out to make both comfy and aesthetically pleasing through the use of the zabuton sitting floor cushion

#7

Matchstick Blinds

It’s a common sight to see Sudare 簾 hanging outside Japanese homes, efficiently blocking the heat before it enters into the house. Other’s place them inside the house in place of curtains. Sudare go by names including Matchstick Blinds, Bamboo Blinds and Woven Wood Blinds in English. They are potent symbol of summer in Japan and can add a rustic element to designs that are going for natural or earthy look.

Recommended Japanese Home Products

Japanoscope uses affiliate links. Which means we may receive commisions when you click on some product links. We only link to products we believe in, use ourselves or think are genuinely good. This helps us keep all of the content on the site free of charge. As Monty Python once said, “We’re selling records in the foyer. Some of us have gotta eat too you know”.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts doing a Masters Degree, have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1). I’ve written songs in Japanese and have released several albums through Tokyo label Majikick Records.

ピータージョセフヘッドです。4年間京都市立芸大の大学院として日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。

Matcha Whisk Chasen Round Up

In the past we have written about our favorite tea sets. Today we dive into the world of the Matcha whisk chasen.

Why Whisk Matcha?

Whisking matcha reduces bitterness and brings out the sweetness in the tea. It also adds a frothy texture to the tea which is more fun! It gives the tea a “luxuriousness”, similar to that created by the “crema” layer on the top of a well made black coffee. There are also obvious parallels with cafe latte or cafe ole froth.

How to Whisk Matcha?

Use a Japanese whisk called a Chasen 茶筅, “cha”茶, of course, meaning tea. 

Before you start, do a “Chasen Toushi”茶筅通し, which means to wet the chasen in warm water in preparation. Giving it a few swishes for a few seconds in the water from the pot is enough.

Mix fast in an up-and-down, “M” shaped motion. When bubbles have formed Japanese people say to change the mixing shape from that of a letter “M” to the Japanese letter “の”, which is a more circular motion, and raise the whisk higher as you do it. When you’re done, pull the whisk out from the centre of the tea in a perpendicular motion, so that the surface of the tea looks nice and you don’t make a mess!

 

What to look for when buying a chasen bamboo whisk?

Traditionally, chasen are made from bamboo. These range from cheap to as much as you want to pay really. Serious tea masters will have a quiver of chasen for different occasions, such as chasen made of “blue bamboo” for the first tea ceremony of the new year.

bamboo takes a lot of care and will wear out over time, so you will need to buy new ones every now and then if you use them regularly. It helps to use a “Chasen Tate” or whisk-stand to put the chasen on when you’re not using it to help it keep its shape.

More recently, there are chasen made of metal or resin that can stand more extended everyday use. These may be more practical for people that want them purely for utilitarian purposes, but are considered less “refined”.

As with all traditional arts in Japan, there are different “schools” or “houses”, called ryuha in Japanese, of tea. The different schools tend to prefer certain types of chasen made from different types of bamboo. The three big “sen” (thousand) schools and their choice of chasen are:

 

  • House of Omote – Susudake bamboo
  • House of Urasen – Hachiku bamboo or white bamboo
  • Musyakojisenke – Shichiku bamboo or black bamboo
 
 

How many teeth for your matcha tea whisk?

For beginner tea makers, it is usually recommended that people use a chasen with about 90-100 teeth (called 穂 “ho” in Japanese). More advanced people may use a whisk with around 120 ho. This is because more advanced tea masters often use thicker teas which need the chasen with more teeth, but which also require a certain knack to be able to use.
Often, choices by different tea houses come down to a preference that may have been made by a venerable teacher far in the past that has become a learn-by-rote rule over time.
The making of tea is a deep, deep rabbit whole that you can go down if you want to.

 

How to make matcha tea without whisk?

Really, making tea can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. Making matcha can be as easy as slapping some powder in a bowl and giving it a quick mix up with a spoon. At the heart of the Japanese fastidious approach to tea making is the zen influenced concept of appreciating the little details of everyday life. How you stir up a cup of tea can be as significant an act as anything else. But it’s important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The point here is not to obsess over the details. But do appreciate the little things.Often, choices by different tea houses come down to a preference that may have been made by a venerable teacher far in the past that has become a learn-by-rote rule over time.
The making of tea is a deep, deep rabbit whole that you can go down if you want to.

 

Recommended Matcha Whisks

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Matchstick Blinds Buying Guide

The 3 biggest things to think about when buying Matchstick blinds. What are the best materials for bamboo blinds or Japanese shades. What are sudare, misu and yoshizu?

Read More »

Hana Kimura, Her Mother’s Petition and The Rigging of Terrace House

we translate an article from the Shukan Bunshun that outlines how Hana Kimura’s mother, Kyoko Kimura, is petitioning Japan’s broadcasting watchdog to examine how the show Terrace House was set up in a way that ultimately led to Hana’s demise.

Along with the text, we read the article in Japanese, then in English, then sentence by sentence in both languages.

Read More »

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student and on working holiday, have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).

Japanese Wall Art

Japanese Wall Art - The Ultimate Gallery

Japanese aesthetics have been popular for more than a century. So much so that we have the term “Japonisme” to describe the wave of interest in Japanese culture in the 19th century. We’ve written about the influence of Japan on western architecture here.

So why not get a little Japanese artwork on your wall? We’ve created this gallery of Japanese wall art and Japanese posters to give you an overview of what’s out there. We’ve trawled through the cheesy images and more appalling items that are flogged to the gaijin market. If you’re in the market for a poster of a samurai warrior matched with the Kanji for “sushi”, this isn’ the place for you.

We’ve divided the images into some of the more popular categories of Japanese posters including Japanese movie posters and vintage Japanese posters. Images are available to purchase on the Redbubble store.

Japanese Posters

Japanese Movie Posters

Japanese poster for classic French film Amelie
Japanese 2001: A Space Odyssey poster
Frances Ha Japanese Poster
Japanese Blade Runner
Japanese Blues Brothers
Super Smash Brothers - The Movie Japanese

Vintage Japanese Posters

Japan has some amazingly beautiful vintage images, many of them originally advertisments for products. Perhaps most iconicallly, Japanese beer companies have a long tradition of creating advertisments with beautiful women swooming at over a glass of the amber ale. Here’s a few to get you started.

Vintage Yebisu Beer Poster
Vintage sugar company advertisment

Japanese Propaganda Posters

For this history buffs, here are some Japanese wartime propaganda images. These images serve as a visual reminder of the horrors of wartimes that we never want to revisit.

Japanese wartime magazine cover commorating the 2nd anniversary of the "Greate East Asian War" (WWII & sino-Japanese war)
Japanese propaganda image urging to "Mobilise the Japanese Spirit"
WW2 Japanese Propaganda Poster urgin "residents to be vigilent"

Look for more Japanese wall art options on Redbubble

**I was compensated for this post. This post also contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links

Japanese Shoji Lamps & Lighting

Shoji Lamps

行灯

Life’s too short for crappy lighting.

Japanese have long understood the need for atmosphere in their lighting. 

Japanese women with Shoji Lamp, or 行灯 "Ando" in Japanese

Japanase interiors are characterised by a subtle, moody warmth. Here’s some examples of Japanese lamps, shoji lamps and Japanese lanterns in action.

What are “Shoji lamps”?

Technically Shoji 障子 refer to the latticed paper doors that divide traditional Japanese homes. So the term “Shoji lamp” is a bit of misnomer, it is more accurate to say a “shoji-style lamp”, being a lamp that is in the style of a shoji paper door. Indeed, it would sound strange to a Japanese person to say a “shoji-lamp” in Japanese. It would be like saying a “door lamp”. These are called 行灯 “ando” or “andon” in Japanese (literally a going-light). For all intents and purposes though the term “Shoji lamp” has become the accepted term in English, so we will go with that here.

What are Shoji Lamps (Ando) made of?

Traditionally, these lamps were made of silk over wood, but later came to be made of Japanese Washi paper. Japanese doors and lamps are not made of “rice paper”. This is a common misconception but not based in fact. Washi is made from a variety of materials including Kozo (Mulberry), Mitsumata (Oriental Paperbush – possibly where the “rice paper” confusion comes from), ganpi or hemp.

Many listings you will see for lamps still list the materials as “rice paper”. These will actually be made from trees such as Tetrapanax papyrifer or mulberry. Hopefully, that clears up some of the confusion.

Shoji Lamp (Ando) uses

There’s plenty of uses for Shoji lamps. The brightness level, originally used in feudal times, is actually a great fit for modern uses where you want a subtle light that gives some warmth but which is not invasive. They can work well as a bedside table lamp, computer desk light, bookending a mantle piece, even to give atmosphere to a bathroom.

And if you’re a gamer, already ensconced in the digital world of, say, Sword of the Samurai, Yakuza O or Onimusha Warlords, why not get into the spirit of it in the real world too with a traditional Japanese shoji lamp?

There are some great items that are available online, falling into the main categories of:

  • Bedside/Desk lamps
  • Hanging shoji lamps
  • Floor Lamps

Japanese Lights available on Amazon

Floor Lamps

A modern take with a classic feel from Adesso (58″ 147cm)

Scandanivian Spruce 17″

Desk Lamps

Old meets new in this “Senbon Torii” tubular desk lamp.

 

Natural table lamp from Oriental Furniture 8 x 8 x 17.5 inches

Hanging & Ceiling Lamps

Japanese style bamboo chandelier 24″ (61cm)

Parchment roof LED light

Rustic farmhouse hanging ceiling lamp

Look for more Japanese lighting options on Amazon

If you are after something a little more one-of-a-kind, try some of these items on Etsy.

Japanese Lights available on Etsy

Floor Lamps

Craftsman-made traditional Shoji Lamp 20.8″ (53cm)
Modern, laser cut floor lamp 2′ (61cm)

Desk Lamps

Exquisite cherry blossom, floral table lamp 14″ (36cm)

Hanging & Ceiling Lamps

Hexagonal hanging lamp 8″ (20cm)

Look for more Japanese lighting options on Etsy

"I often stand in front of the shoji and stare at the bright but not dazzling light coming through the paper.

If you liken the Japanese-style tatami room to a sumi-e ink picture, the shoji would form the lightest part of composition Toko-no-ma alcove the darkest. "

Junichiro Tanizaki

from "In Praise of Shadows"
view book

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

The Simple Guide to Buying a Japanese Tea Set

All About Japanese Tea Sets

If you are a fan of Japanese culture, you are going to want to get yourself a Japanese tea set of one kind or another. If you are really into it, you’ll probably want several. Now tea is a big rabbit hole you can go down. If you do want to go deep, I would recommend starting with Okakura Kukuzo’s 1906 classic book The Book Of Tea, which, to give you a taste starts out:

“Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence”

Okakura Kakuzo, a man who probably thought too much about tea

A hundred years later, it’s still true that tea can get a little culty. A little nerdy. Or a little “let’s make sure we don’t heat our tea water more than 46.3 degrees, and that we spin the cup three and a half cycles per serve and make sure we have scientifically matched the tea circumference to the vessel consistency”. But it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Sure, if you want to make your tea using a thermometer and a set square, then knock yourself out. But fundamentally all we’re doing here is mixing a few leaves with some hot water, so let’s not overly complicate things. 

In this article, we are going to simplify things so you can find yourself your perfect Japanese tea set, without the hoo-ha. We’ll cover the basics you need to know before you shell out for a pot and some cups.

Difference Between Teapots and Kettles

Now before we go any further we do need to get one fundamental thing straight. A kettle is something you use to boil water, and a teapot is something you use to mix tea and hot water. Simple enough right? In principle yes, but be aware that sometimes kettles and teapots can look very alike. In Japanese tea sets, this is especially true of metallic kettles and pots, which can be easy to confuse. Don’t get yourself into hot water 😉

With that sorted out, let’s take a look at the different types of Japanese tea sets out there.

Hi, I’m a kettle!

Image: Batholith [Public domain]

And hi, I’m a teapot!

Image: learza from Toorak, Melbourne [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

Types of Japanese Tea Set

For the purposes of getting yourself kitted out with tea making stuff, there’s basically two types of Japanese Tea – powdered and leaf-brewed tea. 

These are both made from the same thing –  tea leaves, our old friend Camellia sinensis

I’m tea. I can be powdered or leafy. Nice to meet you!

Powdered Japanese Tea Sets

The most famous powdered tea is the ubiquitous and mighty Matcha, which you may know from such roles as the matcha-flavoured milkshake or the matcha flavoured ice cream. Preparing powdered tea can be both the easiest (think instant powdered coffee) or the most difficult of teas to make (think a Japanese Tea Ceremony replete with a bevvy of utensils), depending on how serious you’re going to get. We’ve done a post about Chasen Whisks here, but the truth be told, you can get by with any old cup and a spoon to mix. 

All the high tech tools you really need to make a matcha

But if you want to really look the part, and chase the dragon of that fine cha taste, you would be looking at a set of four objects; a cup (chawan 茶碗), a spoon (Chashaku 茶杓), a whisk (Chasen 茶筅) and a tea container (Natsume 棗).

chawan 茶碗
Chashaku 茶杓
Natsume 棗

Chasen 茶筅

Image: Yuya Tamai

Leaf-Brewing Japanese Tea Sets

The first thing you need to choose for brewing leaf tea is what material you want to boil, pour and drink your tea with – Earthenware, Porcelain, Metal or Glass. See info below.

Once you’ve got that sorted, you just need to decide on a pot shape and where you want the handle. Too easy.

Shapes

Shape-wise, you find pots with handles on the side, back and top of a tea-pot. It doesn’t really matter which you go with. The ones on the side are good because you can use one finger to hold the lid on while you pour. But if you’re left-handed, and you buy a side-handled pot made for a right-hander, then you better get ready to hone your backhanded pouring technique. The pots with handles across the top are usually the bigger ones or Dobin 土瓶, which are good for making a large amount of tea for lots of people.

Yokode 横手

learza from Toorak, Melbourne [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

Ushirode 後手

Image: Cosmin Dordea

Dobin 土瓶

Image: 森正洋デザイン研究所 (Mori Masahiro Design Studio, LLC.) [CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]

There are also pots that have no handles, called Hohin. You need to make sure the water is not too hot when you use one of these pots (which is really one of the central tenets of making Japanese tea anyway). Take a look at this video to see someone making tea in a handleless pot.

There are three main materials and each one has its own advantages and drawbacks:

Tea Set Materials

Clay, Earthenware & Other Ceramics

Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/y_i/370865102/

Pots and cups made out of clay and ceramics are, in our opinion, the most fun option. Teaware made in these materials actually interact with the tea they hold to influence the flavour. They have the ability to absorb tastes and add flavours of their own. Which could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what you like. We reckon it’s a good thing.

Ultimately, clay and ceramics turn making tea into more of an art than a science. 

Purists will say that you should have a clay teapot for each specific type of tea you want to brew. Teapots will take on the taste of the tea that is brewed in them most often. So if you spend six months only brewing sencha in a pot, and then brew genmaicha, the genmaicha is still going to have a note of the sencha in there. Once again, could be a good thing, could be a bad thing. Either way, it’s food for thought.

Porcelain

If you are after something that will give a more “pure” or “clinical” representation of exactly what the tea leaves taste like without outside influence, Porcelain is a good option. Porcelain production has a long history in Japan, having been introduced from China via Korea in the late 1500s. It took the Chinese hundreds of years to perfect Porcelain, and the means of production was often kept a secret. Porcelain still keeps its air of refinement, and associations with China, so much so that we still use the word “China” in English to mean Porcelain. So if you are after something more instantly recognisable as distinctly “Japanese”, it may be better to go with earthenware.

Metal

Image: Misakubo [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

There is something about the beautiful cast iron Japanese tetsubin 鉄瓶 kettles and kyusu 急須teapots. They have a certain ye-old-worldly charm. They are also popular because they can add the element of iron to water.

Just don’t confuse the kettles with the teapots – from the outside they look almost the same. You can tell the teapots by the fact they have an in built strainer in them

Glass

This is not so much a traditional one, but glass is worth a mention as it can be fun to be able to see the actual tea leaves brewing in the pot. It’s also a neutral material that won’t influence the taste of your tea. Have you ever heard anyone say “Er, yuk, this tea tastes like glass”?

REVIEWS: Top Recommended Tea Sets

Tealyra Matcha Startup Kit

If you want to do Matcha in style, this is a great kit with a bowl, whisk & whisk stand, strainer, tea-scoop, tray and a packet of matcha. 

Pros:

  • Beautiful gold infused earthenware bowl
  • chashaku scoop and chasen whisk are made of bamboo
  • Whisk comes with stand to help it keep its shape when stored.
  • Simple wooden tray

Cons:

  • Only one cup, would need to get more if you want to have tea with friends.

Check Price on Amazon

Bizen Ware Cup

If, like us, you are into the rich, earthy looking teacups and pots, you’ll find that it is hard to source the good stuff as a set with, say, 4 cups and a teapot. More often cups are sold as one-off items. Each one is its own little art piece. We are huge fans of pottery from the Bizen kilns of Japan. Buying several of these to put together your own “set” may be a little more expensive than some of the sets below, but is a worthwhile investment. There is something psychologically pleasing for guests, also, when everyone has their own special, but equally beautiful cup!

Pros

  • Wonderful rich, earthy texture
  • From one of the famous kilning regions of Japan
  • Each item is unique
  • Good size, not too small or big

Cons

  • As with almost all Japanese cups, there is no handle. So if you make the tea too hot, you’ll feel it!

Check Price On Amazon

Hagi Ware 5 cup tea set

There is a famous saying in Japan, “Raku first, Hagi second and Karatsu third”, in reference to the types of tea-wares that are used in tea ceremonies. Hagi is known for its use of understated, subdued colors and for it’s distinctive glaze. Number two ain’t bad.

Pros

  • Subdued color
  • From one of the famous kilning regions of Japan – Hagi
  • 5 cups is great for entertaining
  • Set makes for great value

Cons

  • Possibly too understated for some

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Tokoname pot and 3 cup set

Tokoname is another of the iconic kilning regions of Japan, known for it’s striking red clay coloring. The “Tokyo Matcha Selection” headline is confusing, as the pot is designed with an in-built strainer for making loose leaf tea.

Pros

  • Beautiful earthy red
  • From one of the famous kilning regions of Japan – Tokoname
  • In built metal strainer caters for fine leaves
  • 3 cups set is good value

Cons

  • Cups and pots may be too small for some
  • Only three cups

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Marble-Style Tea Set with four cups

If you are not a stickler for the traditional stuff, this is a modern yet classic design. Features gold patterns similar to Kintsugi, available in white or black.

Pros

  • Good size for serving four people
  • Solid, top-style handle
  • Wooden tray included

Cons

  • Strainer on spout not suitable for finer tea grains, so may need to use external strainer
  • Not Japanese-made product

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Floral blue Arita Porcelain with five lidded cups

Pros

  • Genuine Arita-produced porcelain
  • Rustic on-the-top handle
  • Evocative Peony Botan floral design
  • Porcelain does not color flavor of tea
  • Distinctive lidded cups

Cons

  • Lidded cups may be too much bother for some and may make cups harder to stack away

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Classic White Arita Porcelain Pot and 5 Cups

Pros

  • Genuine Arita-produced porcelain
  • Features floral inlay
  • Porcelain does not color flavor of tea
  • Teapot shape close to Western shape so is appropriate for various teas
  • Distinctive lidded cups

Cons

  • May not be distinctively Japanese enough for some

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Striped 5 cup Arita Porcelain Set

Somewhat festive looking set featuring a Kyo Tokusa 京十草 design. Kyo means Kyoto and the Tokusa means 10-grasses. It is said that gold and metal become more lustrous when polished with 10 grasses. Partly because of this reason, the stripey motif in Japanese design is considered auspicious

Pros

  • Genuine Arita-produced porcelain
  • Kyo Tokusa 京十草 design
  • Red and white stripes associated with festive times in Japan
  • Porcelain does not color flavor of tea

Cons

  • Side handle would not suit left handed person.

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4 Cup Cast Iron Teapot Set

Pros

  • Pot keeps tea warm for a long time
  • Built in infuser
  • Comes with stand and wooden storage box
  • Adds iron element to water

Cons

  • Metallic pot could keep too hot, so you may need to use it with another pot which lets the water cool down for some tea types
  • No saucers for cups

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Kiyoshi 4 cup Cast Iron in Konjo-blue

This hand-painted set has a truly classic Japanese look

Pros

  • FDA Approved and lead-free
  • Pot keeps tea warm for a long time
  • Built in infuser
  • Comes with stand
  • Adds iron element to water
  • Cups Include Saucers

Cons

  • Metallic pot could keep too hot, so you may need to use it with another pot which lets the water cool down for some tea types
  • Gift box & instruction booklet relatively cheap looking