Wednesday, July 21, 2010


For those of you who have faced "Temp Out of Stock" on many of our tea selections in the past month or so, we apologize and appreciate your patience. The wait is finally over; the 2010 Shincha (new harvest teas) is in. In Japan, shincha is anticipated as much as the Beaujoulais Nouveau in France. The first flush of the year can occur as early as early spring in southern climates like Okinawa, but is generally thought of in Japan as beginning on the 88th day after the early February start of spring on the traditional Japanese calendar. For central Japan, this is usually by mid-May. Since our teas are sourced from all over Japan, going as far north as Saitama Prefecture, we have to wait a bit longer for all to be available for international shipping.

Shincha is thought to have more flavor and higher nutritional content that later harvested tea
creating a more than two-thirds market demand for fresh packed shincha. Today's technology of nitrogen-flushed packaging does extend tea's freshness considerably, but it's always special to have the first tea of the season. Charaku Fine Japanese Tea sells only small batch (40-50g) packages that are nitrogen-flushed and sealed in Japan. We do not buy bulk tea and repackage in the U.S. after a long journey or open storage.

We are also happy to announce the additional of a new tea in our line-up, Karigane. Karigane is the term used for stem tea (Kukicha) derived from the harvest of Gyokuro. These stems have an exceptional flavor and full mouth feel, with limited caffeine. Stem tea (both Kukicha & Karigane) is also naturally alkaline (countering acidity) and is a popular tea among those following a macrobiotic diet. We hope that you will give this new tea a try.

By the way, as many of our customers all currently battling heat waves this time of year; we've had comments on how much people are enjoying mizudashi (cold-infused) teas from Charaku. Any of our teas work well for this, but kukicha and houjicha can be consumed in large amounts quickly due to their lower caffeine content. Your favorite sencha also will be delicious cold.
Here's a standard recipe: let 10-15g (or more, to taste) of tea steep in 1 L (about 4 cups) of cold water in a covered container in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Strain thoroughly and enjoy! Keeps well for 24 hours.

Please visit our Charaku Fine Japanese Tea website at to find out more, or to order your shincha now.

Hamada and Kawai pottery acquisitions

WaSabiDou Antiques & Folk Crafts has recently acquired two wonderful pieces of mingei-inspired work by two important 20th Century Japanese Potters. First is a Tea Bowl by the late Shoji Hamada, National Living Treasure (Ningen Kokuho.) The second is a Kogo Incense Container by Takeichi Kawai, nephew and kiln successor to Kanjiro Kawai; who along with Soetsu Yanagi, Shoji Hamada, Bernard Leach, and others, was an instrumental first-generation Mingei (Folk Craft) Movement member. Both pieces were made in 1972 and have an excellent provenance.
The Aka-e Chawan (Red Overglaze Enamel Tea Bowl) is an interesting example of Hamada's work and interest in Okinawa. Hamada often spent winters making pots in Okinawa, and sometimes compled the glaze firing back in Mashiko. Another feature is the faceted sides. Rather than a smooth-surfaced round tea bowl, nine faceted "windows" contain classic quick brush-stroked patterns by Hamada. The piece was recently authenticated by his son, Shinsaku Hamada, with the following comments, "This bowl was made by hand at Tsuboya, Okinawa, by Hamada Shoji and brought back to Mashiko to complete firing at Hamada Shoji's aka-e kiln there. Around the rim, there are some small areas of glaze loss, but this is not a problem. It is a very fine piece." The bowl comes with a custom-made signed wooden box.
The kogo by Takeichi Kawai shows the continuation of Kanjiro Kawai's influence on his kiln's successor. Form and color are classic Kawai in this lovely piece. A kogo is used to hold incense, with fine pieces often placed in the tokonoma (alcove) of the tea room during tea ceremony. This piece combines the rugged nature of folk craft, along with Kawai's artistic sensibilities with an elegant shape.

Both items available for sale and would made a great addition to a museum or personal collection of important mingei-related work. I think that both Hamada and Kawai would actually like to see them put to use to realize their true beauty. For more information and images on these, and other craft items, please visit the catalog on my website,

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Noh in Seattle

On June 19, I was proud to have coordinated a performance of traditional Noh in Seattle. The Wing Luke Asian Museum of the Pacific American Experience hosted Chuuden Yuugakukai from Nagoya, Japan in their Tateuchi Story Theater. The group performed to a (beyond) capacity crowd of Seattle-ites appreciative for the rare opportunity to witness the cultural legacy of traditional Noh Drama, and experience the Japanese aesthetic of “yuugen:” profundity, subtlety, and mystery.

In this first-time visit to Seattle, Chuuden Yuugakukai gave a special demonstration of this centuries-old Japanese traditional art form. Based in Ngoya, the group has been performing regionally in central Japan's Aichi and Gifu Prefectures for 30 years. Chuuden Yuugakukai is part of the Kanze School of Noh drama, which has a lineage dating back to the 14th Century. With patronage from the Ashikaga clan of samurai warlords; the school flourished under the founder, Kan'ami, and his son, Zeami, to become one of the largest and most prestigious schools of Noh. It continues today to be known for its emphasis on graceful movements and beautiful costumes.

The performance by the group's 10 member consisted of 8 vignettes from classic Noh theater; including Chikubushima, Semimaru, Hagoromo, and Funa Benkei. Traditional flute and hand drums accompanied the singing and dancing. A special bonus was a mask carving demonstration, and the display of a collection of hand-carved wooden masks used by actors in the NohTheater.

I've been honored to have coordinated or produced a number of cultural artistic performances in the US & Japan and look forward to a future opportunity to work with this wonderful group again. And, for more information on this gem of a Seattle museum, please visit