Enjoy your tea with a Tokoname Yaki Teapot
If you’re a lover of tea, then you might have heard of the term “kyusu” which means “tea pot” in Japanese. The Tokoname Yaki is both a remarkable and historic teapot which dates back to the 12th century. Because of the way the teapot is made, it gives the tea a distinguishable flavor, making it well-liked amongst green tea enthusiasts.
The Unparalleled Craftsmanship in Tokoname
Tokoname is a city located in central Japan (on the coast of the Chita Peninsula) and is known to contain Japan’s oldest and largest kiln. At one point, it was estimated that there were as many as 3,000 kilns in Tokoname; the five other ancient kilns were known as Shigaraki, Tanba, Seto, Echizen, and Bizen. The pottery made in Tokoname is created with an unmatched craftsmanship and artistry. The very first teapot created was by Inaba Takamichi and was made with white or rough clay. The creator of the first red clay teapot, Sugie Jyumon, worked with a doctor named Hirano Chuji, and eventually launched the Red Clay Tokoname Teapot. With its notable capabilities, the Red Clay Tokoname Teapot received recognition for its ability to withhold water without the use of a glaze on the pot.
Keeping the Tradition Alive
The hand-crafted works of art of the Tokoname Yaki are carried on through future generations of potters who keep the tradition alive. Today, potters who create ceramics now incorporate different types of clays to create truly exceptional works of art. Although there are many kinds of Japanese ceramics to choose from, the Tokoname Yaki stands out from the rest because of the distinct artistry and craftsmanship that goes into making it. Tokoname Yaki is well-known for making various types of products ranging from teapots to bonsai vases.
A Unique Flavoring
Although the Tokoname Yaki is known for many types of sculptured pottery, it is renowned for its noteworthy teapots. The reason why the Tokoname Yaki teapot is so favorable amongst tea enthusiasts is because of the way it sweetens the flavor of the tea, giving it more a pleasant and smooth taste. Because clay is the material that is used to make the teapot, it is recognized to intensify the umami of the tea. This is because the clay used to make the teapot is infused with iron-rich minerals which contributes to the overall taste of the green tea. More specifically, this tea pot separates the flavors individually and allows the drinker to taste each distinct note of the tea. There is a reaction that occurs with the tea and minerals in the clay that minimizes the harshness of the tea, and instead emphasizes the tea’s unique flavor.
Because of the teapot’s porous surface, it allows the fragrance of the tea to be integrated. Tokoname Yaki pottery is known to have a combination of iron-infused clays and the pots are usually finished with an unglazed surface. In the instance of a Tokoname teapot, the porous surface of the pot allows the drink to be absorbed in the pores giving the tea a unique flavor.
The Tokoname Yaki’s surface is not glossed, has a built-in strainer, and an easy-to-grip handle. The built-in strainer allows you to steep the leaves without getting any of the tea leaves in your drink while allowing you to skip the hassle of brewing. The design of the Tokoname Yaki Teapot stands out from others with its detailed features standing out in its handle, spout, and lid. Although you can steep different kinds of teas with the Tokoname Yaki Teapot, the best and most known tea to pair it with is green tea (including Sencha). Because of its design, this teapot is an extraordinary take on the cliché, “I’m a little teapot, short and stout”. The Tokoname Yaki Teapot’s ability to bring out the richness in the flavor of the tea is intriguing and is definitely something worth trying.
Designs Lasting Through the Ages
The design of the Tokoname is both unique and ergonomic, making it easy to use and also aesthetically pleasing. The pottery of Tokoname Yaki stands out from the others, and different techniques are used when potters create these wonderful works of art. For instance, with the method of Mogake, the potter places seaweed on a teapot prior to placing it in the kiln. Another technique used is one called shizenyu yakijime where the teapot is placed in the kiln without the use of glaze. The overall look of the design can be manipulated based on the atmosphere of the kiln and the temperature used when firing the product. Every potter that creates a sculpture is different: some choose to leave a rougher, sandy texture while others prefer a smoother finish. In years past, potters only used the wood-fired method to create their products, but now have the ability to also use the electric-kiln method. Various styling and skillful craftsmanship are put into finishing the decorative part of the Tokoname Yaki pottery. It is said that the red clay took the form of an orange color instead of actual red. Nowadays, the pottery is created using a mixture of variegated red clay and no longer of the original red clay.
The pottery of the Tokoname Yaki has a practical, yet innovative design that has lasted through the ages and continues to capture the admiring eyes of artists and tea admirers alike. Its design is truly remarkable, one of a kind, and allows you to appreciate the amount of time and effort that goes behind the craftsmanship of this art form.
Try an authentic Tokonomeyaki for a better taste of your green tea now.
Images provided by author
I have enjoyed this type of tea pot years ago. Unfortunately it was broken and not replaced. I would love to do a side by side comparison with another vessel and note the differences in taste from using different brewing vessels.
Tokoname Kyusu are so unique among teapots. Compared to a porcelain or glazed teapot, clay kyusu are more “alive” in that they can retain and impart, as well as balance the flavor of tea. These teapots are a true treasure to behold with the eye and hold in the hand. Thank you for the informative article!