During the Nara and Heian periods, many envoys were sent to Tang-dynasty China. On several occasions, these envoys were accompanied by Japan's leading Buddhist scholars, including Saicho, Kukai and Eichu. These Buddhist monks brought back with them tea seeds from Tang China, which are said to be the origin of tea in Japan.
In the early Heian Period, Emperor Saga is said to have encouraged the drinking and cultivation of tea in Japan. Tea drinking was first referred to Japanese literature in 815 in the Nihon Koki (Later Chronicles of Japan), recording that Eichu invited Emperor Saga to Bonshakuji temple, where he was served tea. At this time, tea was extremely valuable and only drunk by imperial court nobles and Buddhist monks.
It became a drink of the royal classes when Emperor Saga encouraged the growth of tea plants. Seeds were imported from China, and cultivation in Japan began.
Saicho (September 15, 767 – June 26, 822) Japanese Buddhist monk.
In 1191, Zen priest Eisai, founder of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism, brought back a new type of tea seeds to Kyoto from Sung-dynasty China. Some of the tea seeds were given to the priest Myoe Shonin, and became the basis for Uji tea. In 1214, Eisai wrote the first book specifically about tea in Japan, Kissa Yōjōki (How to Stay Healthy by Drinking Tea). The two-volume book was written after Eisai's second and last visit to China. The first sentence states:
"Tea is the ultimate mental and medical remedy and has the ability to make one's life more full and complete."
Eisai was also instrumental in introducing tea consumption to the warrior class, which rose to political prominence after the Heian period.
Myōan Eisai, Japanese Buddhist pries who brought green tea from China to Japan.
Green tea became a staple among cultured people in Japan—a brew for the gentry and the Buddhist priesthood alike. Production grew and tea became increasingly accessible, though still a privilege enjoyed mostly by the upper classes.
Eisai's book Kissa Yojoki played a major role in spreading tea culture in Japan. In the late Kamakura Period, the practice of Tocha (tea competitions), which originated in Southern Song-dynasty China, became popular among the Samurai class and tea gatherings were common. The tea ceremony rapidly spread, including Chakabuki.
From the late 15th century to the late 16th century, tea masters such as Murata Shuko, Takeno Joo and Sen no Rikyu developed a new tea ceremony, referred to as Wabicha. This style of tea ceremony gained a strong following among Samurai and is the origin of the tea ceremony practiced today.
Sen no Rikyū (1522 – April 21, 1591) was the first to emphasize several key aspects of the tea ceremony.
In 1738, Soen Nagatani developed Japanese sencha, literally meaning simmered tea, which is an unfermented form of green tea.
It is the most popular form of tea in Japan today.
Nagatani Soen was a tea farmer and knew much about tea because he lived right next to Uji.
Since he wasn’t allowed to shade his tea plants, he had the interesting idea to make a better tea than what was available, but without using the shading method. He combined different techniques available at the time so that the rolling and drying would be done at the same time:
He placed a large sheet of paper on top of the furnace, and experimented with different rolling methods. That way the tea leaves would dry more evenly, and the result would be better than drying under the sun.
He discovered that using young leaves could improve the quality. In 1738, after 15 years, Soen had successfully developed sencha.
The tea leaves were green, and had a fresh smell, when brewed, the liquid was a clear yellow, and in the mouth there was a harmony between sweetness, astringency and bitterness.
This process was called aosei sencha seihou in which the first character refers to the green color of the tea leaves. By the 20th century, machine manufacturing of green tea was introduced and began replacing handmade tea.
Nagatani Soen invented the Uji-cha production method known as aosei sencha seiho.
About Tokoname Ware
Tokoname ware is one of the traditional Japanese crafts, and it is a very profound one that is carefully crafted one by one by craftsmen using traditional methods that have been handed down from ancient times.
It is made mainly in Tokoname City, which faces Ise Bay in the central part of the Chita Peninsula in Aichi Prefecture, and is a pottery designated as a traditional craft by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry.
Tokoname ware has been around since the end of the Heian period (12th century) and has a very old history and is one of the six sites where the production of ceramic ware began in ancient Japan. It was also designated as a Japan Heritage in 2017.
It is characterized by using soil called red mud, which contains a large amount of iron oxide, and when it is baked, it has a reddish-brown color with a unique texture. Therefore, until a long time ago, Tokoname ware was distributed as Akamono (Red Thing).
Tokoname ware is basically made as unglazed pottery without glaze. Since the firing temperature is high, it is tight and has sufficient strength even for unglazed tableware used in daily life.
Among pottery lovers, Tokoname ware is famous for the high quality of Kyusu (Japanese Teapot).
Aoki Mokubei (1767-1833), Teapot decorated in relief, celadon glaze, Edo period (1615–1868), 18th century.
When green tea became popular among the common people during the Edo period, tea utensils centred on Kyusu began to be produced in Tokoname, which used to produce daily necessities.
In the first year of Ansei, Jumon Sugie succeeded in producing a teapot using red mud near Yixing, which is famous as a teapot producing area in China. However, it was not until the Meiji era that Tokoname’s Kyusu became famous all over the country.
In the early Meiji era, Tokoname ware quickly got on the wave of modernization and increased its nationwide share in the production of clay pipes for water and sewage. Hoju Koie, a potter who played a key role in this, politely invited Chinese artist Kinshiko to teach Tokoname craftsmen to make the same Kyusu as Yixing in China. In this way, high-quality kyusu was produced in Tokoname, and the nationwide share of kyusu increased.
In addition, unglazed pottery is soaked in tea astringency and remains on the pot as a surface pattern to create a unique landscape, and the taste increases with each use, which has spurred popularity.
About Mino Ware
About half of the ceramics produced in Japan are Mino ware which is a general term for ceramics produced in the Tono region of Gifu prefecture (formerly Mino province). It includes Tajimi, Toki, Kani, Mizunami, and Kasahara. It has maintained its long history and tradition but adapted for modern times.
Mino ware is characterised by a large variety of pottery, in fact, it has over 15 types of pottery registered as traditional handicrafts.
Types of Mino ware
Oribe Ware was based on the aesthetics of Oribe Furuta, disciple of Sen no Rikyu (influential master of the tea ceremony, 1522-1591). The ceramics were often asymmetrical, an unique form and geometrical design patterns.
Setoguro Ware and ceramics were produced in and around the city of Seto in Aichi Prefecture. It was an all black glazed item that was mainly produced during the Tensho period (1573-1593). With the iron glaze, it becomes black in colour when taken out of the fired kiln.
Shino Ware has design patterns underneath its glazed was created during the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1573-1600). It was a beautiful light crimson color and bubbly texture produced by feldspar glaze. Production of Shino ware disappeared during the Edo period (1603-1868) but Toyozo Arakawa (1894-1985), who was a well-known Japanese ceramic potter, made tremendous efforts to revive it and was able to bring it back.
Kizeto Ware, which has lately received renewed attention, means yellow ceramics which came from Seto. It is another popular kind of Mino Ware with a soft, calm yellow tone, and it is mostly designed by carving or stamping on the surface.
In the Edo period, the production of the pottery started to take form and its market becomes increasingly significant. Special products were made such as Takada tokkuri, sake bottle or Dachi dobbin, teapot. Porcelain production also started.
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