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Mukozuke, circa 1900

Blue and white Arita plate, Shochikubai pattern (pine, bamboo, plum), circa 1850

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Mizuya, fine Japanese tableware
Japanese Tableware

Tableware is just as important to Japanese cuisine as the food itself. Choosing the perfect serving vessel for a certain dish is an art form, and in Japan (as anywhere), the better the restaurant, the more exquisite the tableware. There is a time-honored tradition of Japanese food arrangement that goes back at least as far as the 16th century.

At home, modern chefs rarely follow such rules, nor could they afford to, as antique and modern artist signed work is extremely expensive. However, setting a Japanese table is one of the joys for any home cook. You might even say that it is our reward. Whatever the season, there is an appropriate mood that is conveyed, as described in the article on seasonality. The color, shape, and even tactile feel of a vessel also enhance whatever food is served, making it seem even more delicious. For more on this, see the article The Power of Five.

We have a growing collection of tableware at our house, but even for everyday use, we regularly use antique dishes and nice lacquerware. The photo below shows a typical dinner setting.

A Japanese place setting

Notice how the size of each dish is rather small, and that we have a mix of old and new dishes in many shapes and colors? Many Japanese dishes, which usually come in sets of five or 10, have different glazes and designs. We also create our own sets by mixing and matching. As you can see in the photo below, our beloved shochu cups are all different. Instead of buying a set, we have been buying one piece at a time, whenever we come across something interesting.

Using Japanese ceramics


But you don’t need to completely change your dishes to serve Japanese food. Many Western dishes can be used successfully by following a few simple tricks. I'll cover these in future articles.

A selection of fine Japanese antique and vintage tableware is available at our online gallery, Mizuya.

Take a look at the Murasakino Wakuden slide show to see how tableware can really enhance the dining experience.


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