HomeTravelJapanese tea house lets visitors drink from $25,000 antique bowls

Japanese tea house lets visitors drink from $25,000 antique bowls

(CNN) — Participating in an historical Japanese custom, sipping from a $25,000 antique bowl and even discovering a little bit of a Nineteen Seventies “Austin Powers” vibe.

All might be a part of the expertise at Gallery Okubo in Tokyo’s Yanaka district, the place antiques seller Mitsuru Okubo and his household supply the standard Japanese tea ceremony expertise with a twist — a alternative of bowls ranging from new to greater than 300 years previous, with among the older museum-quality items price as a lot as $25,000.

The thought behind the gallery is that the customer will get to really feel the bowls and style the drink because the Japanese masters of the tea ceremony would have needed it — and at an reasonably priced worth. It’s artwork and historical past accessible to the lots.

Of course, in the event you get away in a chilly sweat fascinated with what would occur in the event you drop an 18th century, $25,000 bowl, there are some trendy alternate options accessible.

Entering the gallery on a quiet facet road, visitors are greeted with shows of assorted cups, bowls and plates on a tiny first flooring. Okubo’s daughter, Atsuko, then emerges from an adjoining room to greet visitors and escort them up a decent flight of stairs to a second-floor tatami room, the standard setting for the tea ceremony.

Accommodation has been made for Western visitors in that there are common chairs arrange in a sunken flooring, so visitors needn’t sit with legs crossed on the ground as is Japanese custom — and which might be extraordinarily painful in the event you’re not used to it.

In a small room off to the facet, tea bowls are set on a four-shelf stand. These are your decisions, Atsuko explains in English, then highlights some fascinating particulars about every bowl, comparable to age, origin and the tea grasp who endorsed them.

Atsuko Okubo exhibits some her household’s antique tea bowls accessible for patrons to decide on to be used throughout a Japanese tea ceremony.

Brad Lendon/CNN

Making these antique bowls accessible to the general public was Atsuko’s thought.

As an antiques seller, her father had collected many, however gross sales have been gradual on the gallery and many of the bowls sat hidden away, their bins gathering mud and offering no pleasure to anybody. Atsuko thought using them within the tea ceremony would make the household enterprise stand out from the handfuls of different tea ceremonies accessible to visitors to Japan.

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

Or a light-colored bowl with brightly coloured circles, squares and triangles on it. It seems to be prefer it was made within the Nineteen Seventies, and you’ll think about film comedian superspy Austin Powers ingesting from it.

That’s precisely what makes it particular, Mitusuro Okubo says — it melds the traditional and trendy. And despite the fact that it is solely round 50 years previous, it is nonetheless valued at round $15,000.

Atsuko Okubo performs the tea ceremony.

Atsuko Okubo performs the tea ceremony.

Brad Lendon/CNN

Okubo exhibits one other bowl that is round 200 years previous. To the untrained observer, it appears to have a number of imperfections; it isn’t symmetrical and there are discolorations.

“Imperfection is human,” Okubo says, and that is what offers this bowl its one-of-a-kind worth of 1000’s of {dollars}.

He exhibits one other, present day bowl. It’s lovely, however good. It’s price about $100.

“Perfect is for robots. This bowl is a robot,” he says.

And robots are replaceable so if the customer is afraid of dropping a $25,000 bowl, this one is accessible. Also appropriate for youths, Atsuko provides, in order that they will share the expertise with their dad and mom, who will not be anxious a couple of multi-thousand greenback catastrophe.

Today’s visitors make their decisions — a 300-year-old bowl and the Nineteen Seventies bowl. Atsuko, clad in a kimono, begins the ceremony.

The tea service is preceded by a sweet cake.

The tea service is preceded by a candy cake.

Brad Lendon/CNN

Kneeling at a proper angle to the company, she methodically and intentionally prepares the tea.

Using a picket ladle on the finish of an extended persist with get the recent water from a pot, she places it in a mixing bowl and blends the tea in with a whisk. The solely sounds are the water directed by her actions and birds singing exterior.

After visitors are served a candy cake of jelly and bean paste formed to appear like a hydrangea flower, the tea is transferred to the customer’s bowl of alternative and served frothy sizzling.

Following the prescribed ritual, the visitors choose up their dear bowls, one hand on the facet, one supporting beneath.

The style is excellent and all encompassing, a lot in order that the very fact there’s tens of 1000’s of {dollars} of ceramics of their arms is forgotten.

This is experiencing the perfect of Japan.

As Atsuko rigorously places away her provides and the bowls, her father comes up the steps bearing presents for the company — hand-drawn and coloured photos of the bowls every customer used, and the candy dessert they’d, together with explanations of their origin and significance.

Amazingly, drawing solely from reminiscence, Okubo has precisely matched the design of geometric figures on the Nineteen Seventies bowl. It is artwork on a really private degree.

Antiques dealer Mitsuro Okubo provides lucky guests with an original drawing of their tea cups and an explanation of their origins.

Antiques seller Mitsuro Okubo offers fortunate company with an unique drawing of their tea cups and an evidence of their origins.

Brad Lendon/CNN

It has been a satisfying 90 minutes or so, however glancing again at these cabinets of tens of 1000’s of {dollars} of bowls, one can not help however word that that is earthquake nation, and sometimes when quakes hit, there are photos of shattered bowls and plates that have been shaken from their posts.


“This is the first place I come when there’s an earthquake,” Atsuko says.

If you go

Gallery Okubo is open Wednesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to six p.m. The deal with is 6-2-40 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo, a couple of 15-minute stroll from the Nippori practice station, which sits on a number of main rail traces.

Cost for the tea ceremony is 2,200 yen ($16) per individual, and reservations are prompt.

Top picture: Green tea served in a 300-year-old antique bowl. Credit: Brad Lendon/CNN



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