Monday, November 28, 2011

December Open House & Events

Saturday, December 3rd, will be our next Open House for WaSabiDou Antiques & Folk Crafts and Charaku Fine Japanese Tea. Come share a cup of tea, find the perfect holiday gift (tea and tea cups make great stocking stuffers or fine gifts,) or just enjoy the old & new crafts on display.
As always, we have lots of pottery, folk toys, woodblock prints, furniture, textiles, and more.
Recently arrived inventory includes some wonderful black raku
tea bowls by George Gledhill of Payette, ID. Come have a look!
When: Sat, Dec. 3rd, 10am - 5pm
Where: Our showroom at 127 NW 136th Street, Seattle, WA 98177.
Info/Directions: 206-660-4189

On Saturday, December 10th, at 12:00 noon, I'll be holding a tea class at FORTE Music Art Dance Studio on Camano Island. The event is part of their "Holiday Gallery Weekend," which will feature a variety of art media: glass, jewelry, painting, photography, as well as chocolate, coffee, & tea! Come visit if you're in the area and feel the pulse of the island
1095 Essex St Unit A-1, Camano Island, WA 98282 (the location of the old Utsalady Grocery.)
The gallery event runs Dec 10 & 11 from 10am-5pm. For more Info: or 360-926-8519.

On Sunday, December 11th, I'll be serving matcha at Tokara Japanese Confectionery in Seattle from 1:00-5:00pm. Chef Tokara is one of the few professional Japanese wagashi makers in the country and has a lovely shop in the Phinney Ridge neighborhood. Our Charaku Premium Organic Matcha will be served alongside her handmade, seasonal Japanese sweets for $5.00 a set. We strongly recommend advance ordering as sweets for walk-in customers tend to sell out. Come enjoy the authentic taste of Japan during this December touryanse Open House.
Where: 6208 Phinney Avenue N., Seattle, WA 98103 (just a few blocks north of the Woodland Park Zoo.) Call for advance orders and inquiries 206-784-0226.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Open House Dates: Nov 12th & Dec 3rd, 2011

Fall is in the air and the colors outside are amazing! For some of you back east, this has meant snow already and I hope you are all safe and well.

There are new items on both Charaku & WaSabiDou websites and I also wanted to let you know about two Open House dates in the next few weeks for those of you in the Seattle area.

DATES: Saturday, November 12th and Saturday, December 3rd.
TIME:10:00am - 5:00pm, both dates.
LOCATION: Our showroom for antiques/crafts & tea tasting is in north Seattle at
127 N.W. 136th Street, Seattle, WA 98177.
Please feel free to call or e-mail for directions, 206-660-4189.

New items to check out will be:
-2011 teas in stock (a great gift of health and culture for the holidays.)
-A rare & wonderful collection of vintage Miharu Hariko Papier Mache Dolls from Fukushima.
-Works by Pacific Northwest Potters; Tea bowls & more by George Gledhill (Payette, ID,) Tea Cups by John Miller (Portland, OR,) and Tea Bowls and Tableware by Sachiko Furuya (Seattle, WA.)
-A large selction of antique & vintage Kashigata, wooden sweet molds, from Japan.
-Still available is the rare Shoji Hamada Tea Bowl made in Okinawa.
-Plus Woodblock Prints, Textiles, Furniture, Japanese Folk Toys (including kokeshi,) and more!
Please visit the WaSabiDou and Charaku websites for updates and images during the coming week.

I'm also excited to be serving tea in December at two locations:
-Saturday, December 10th at Forte Music, Dance, Art, a brand new studio/gallery on Camano Island
-Sunday, December 11th at Tokara in Seattle, maker of exquisite, fresh Japanese sweets
More details will follow on these two events closer to the dates.

Charaku Fine Japanese Tea
WaSabiDou Antiques & Folk Crafts


-Bowls (suitable for Tea Bowls) from SE Asia & China, 15th-18th Century.

-Khalong Dish, Northern Thailand, ca. 17th Century.

-Jarlet, Vietnam, ca. 18th Century.

-Murata Gen Yunomi (Tea Cup,) authenticated with signed box by son, Hiroshi.


-Miharu Hariko Papier Mache Dolls, Fukushima Prefecture, 1970's-1990's.

-Tea Bowls, Sake Cups, Tableware, & Fissured Jar (background on tansu) bu George Gledhill.

-Assorted Yunomi (Tea Cups) from Mashiko, Okinawa, and Kumamoto with Matcha Chawan (Tea Bowls) by contomporary artist Sachiko Furuya in background.

Contemporary NW Potters - New Works

WaSabiDou is always proud to feature the work of local artists. Images to the right, from top to bottom, are: Winter Tea Bowl by George Gledhill, of Payette, ID; Shino glaze Yunomi (Tea Cup) by John Miller, of Portland, OR; and Idogata Tea Bowl interior with copper glaze by Sachiko Furuya, of Seattle, WA.

George Gledhill's Tea Bowls, Tea and Sake Cups, Vases, Mizusashi, & Jars have long been popular with our clientele. His work is influenced by the nature of the materials he works with, many of which he sources locally near his farm in the high desert area of SE Idaho. His pieces are often highly regarded among tea enthusiasts for their wabi quality.

We are pleased to start showing the work of John Miller, from Portland. A native of the New York and a graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, John's work is strongly influenced by mingei and mingei-influenced potters such as Shoji Hamada, Bernard Leach, and Shimaoka Tatsuzo. His tea cups have the warm feeling of long-ago country potters.

Sachiko Furuya, orignally from Yamanashi Prefecture on the west side of Mount Fuji, is another local potter whose work has been highly collected among WaSabiDou and Charaku customers. They are elegant while still allowing the nature of the materials show through. Lately, she has been working with copper glaze, creating lovely blue pools on her tea bowls and dishes. We have a number of chawan and tableware pieces available now in the showroom.

Antiquarian Society of Seattle - Mingei Presentation

On October 26th, I was honored to have the opportunity to speak to the Antiquarian Society of Seattle on the topic of "Mingei Biron," or Folk Craft Theory. This group of 40 women from the greater Puget Sound area was originally founded in 1938. They carry on a tradition of supporting the arts in and around Seattle. Many are artists or art historians in their own right and make presentations to the group in their own area of specialization.

My talk centered on Soetsu Yanagi's Mingei Theory, and a discussion of Yanagi's views on Art vs Craft and on a number of Japanese craft traditions. I was allowed to bring in several antique and contemporary craft items to speak for themselves. This "Sansui Dobin" (Landscape Tea Pot) from early 20th Century Mashiko was a popular piece that afternoon, as was the Tea Bowl made by Shoji Hamada, pictured below.

Thank you again to this wonderful group for the opportunity to share a subject about which I am passionate, and for their continuing support of the arts and crafts!


We've recently acquired a rare and wonderful collection of vintage Miharu Hariko ningyo. These dolls are all for sale at reasonable prices. As this region of Fukushima is close to the site of the Daiichi Nuclear Reactor, the future of this 14th-generation folk craft is uncertain. These vintage examples are a great way to keep the tradition alive in your own collection.

Miharu-machi (town) is located just NW of Koriyama City in central Fukushima Prefecture. They say the town’s name "mi’ (3) "haru" (spring) comes from the fact that the three famous blossoms of spring; plum peach, and cherry, bloom here in profusion. This colorful backdrop, along with a scenic rural setting, and a long craft history, help to provide the inspiration for the papier-mache dolls known as Miharu Ningyo (Miharu Dolls.)
Over 300 years ago, the first ancestor of the Hashimoto family to
settle in the region was Hashimoto Keibu, a samurai displaced by civil wars. His descendants began making Miharu Ningyo under the patronage of feudal lords during the Edo Period (1600-1868.) Similar in form and theme as the clay dolls produced a bit north at Tsutsumi in Sendai-han (Province) , Miharu Ningyo were instead made of scrap paper pressed over mountain willow wooden molds,

then glued and hand painted. Such items were sold to the retinues of samurai and officials that were forced to travel to and from their outposts to the capital in Edo (Tokyo) under the Shogun’s "san kin kotai" (alternating residences) system. Souvenirs to take back to Tokyo were a must along the route. At the peak of the trade’s history in the 1700's some 30 families worked at this craft in Miharu, proding such items as Ebisu, Daikoku, &Daruma dolls. Today, there are about a dozen of the Hashimoto descendants continuing the tradition today at a collective of farm houses and gift shops known as Deko-Yashiki.
Miharu artisans started out with paper because there were no good clay deposits in the area, but today say that paper actually creates a more lively, and expressive figurine than the stiffer, hardened clay. This can especially be seen in the dancing figures. Other standards are Ebisu, Daikoku, & Daruma dolls, as well as masks, and the popular zodiac animals. To meet the annual demand for the zodiac figures, work begins in the summer months and only a limited number of the following year’s animal is made, and released for sale at year’s end. But, loyal customers don’t mind the annual wait. Today’s dolls also use a higher quality hand-made paper of mulberry bark fibers, and are still hand-painted by the Hashimoto family descendants in this centuries old traditional
folk craft.

Individual images above: Mother Nursing Child, Dancing Maiden with Water Buckets, Ebisu as Sumo Wrestler.


Dentou (Traditional) Kokeshi of NE Japan:
We've got about a dozen new kokeshi in stock looking for good homes. I grew up with dolls like this around the house since my mother was from Sendai, in Miyagi Prefecture. Traditional kokeshi are ALL from the Tohoku region of Northeast Japan,
the area struck by the earthquake and tsunami last March.
We have not yet heard any reports of how the contemprary
kokeshi industry has been affected by these event. But, most of the workshops are in villages located inland from the coast so are hoping that all have survived. Tourism is way down in the region, so we are certain that business is not good. What also may be true is that many of the older pieces in private collections throughout the region could be lost.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

KASHIGATA (Wooden Sweet Molds)

WaSabiDou has recently acquired a wonderful collection of old Japanese wooden sweet molds (kashigata.) There are some great examples of auspicious imagery to be found in these authentic works of folk craft. Molds like these have been used for a few hundred years in Japan, and some are still being used today. Visit our webiste, and look at the listings under "wood" (or just search "kashigata") to see all of these items with full descriptions.

Sweet molds, “kashigata,” have been a part of confectionary culture around the world. Well-known examples in Asia come from Japan, China, Korea, and Indonesia. In Europe; countries such as Germany, Holland, and England have a rich history of cake mold production. Materials such as wood, ceramic, glass, plastic, and numerous metals such as iron, copper, and tin have been employed to shape cakes, cookies, and candy into objects of art and symbolism.

In Japan, kashigata history goes back over 300 years, and wood has been the primary material since then. Commonly used woods include yamazakura (mountain cherry,) katsura (Japanese Judas,) ichou (ginko,) tsubaki (camellia,) and keyaki (zelkova.) Rarer examples may be made from kuri (chestnut,) kaki (persimmon,) and yanagi (willow.) An extremely wide variety of images was produced during the Edo (1600-1868) and the subsequent Meiji (1868-1912) Periods.

Auspicious symbols such as cranes, tortoises, pine (evergreen,) and shrimp or lobster (with rounded backs like the elderly) symbolized long life; while others such as plum and bamboo represented the qualities of perseverance (plum is the first tree to blossom after the harsh winter) and resilience (after bamboo’s resilient nature against the elements.) The Sea Bream fish, “tai,” would have been used for any celebratory occasion due to the play on words “omedetai” (congratulations, felicitations.) Any of these could have been used for a wedding, birth, or New Year celebration. Other examples could be seasonal references; cherry blossoms in spring, chrysanthemums in winter, mushrooms in fall, peaches in summer (also symbolic of fertility.) In the late Meiji, Taisho (1912-1926,) and early Showa (1926-1989) periods; examples of Japanese imperialism also were portrayed in kashigata; including war slogans and military designs. In other cases, simple geometric patterns were utilized in kashigata. Throughout their history, Japanese kashigata have been produced in a tremendous range of imagery, symbolism, and design that has imbued the spirit of the carver and the mystery of natural and supernatural symbolism, into the artisanal tradition of handmade Japanese sweets.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

New Tea has arrived!

Finally! We have received our first tea shipment from Japan since the Tohoku Earthquake last March. Although the road to recovery in Japan is still very long; many sectors, including the tea industry, are making progress. Here are some notes on our current tea line-up.

2011 Harvest Teas: We have our new harvest shipment of 2011 tea from Uji (Kyoto) and various areas of Kyushu (Kagoshima, Fukuoka, Miyazaki) now available. With regards to Shizuoka tea, none of the tea plantations from where our teas are sourced experienced radiation problems after the earthquake and tsunami. However, other teas from Shizuoka Prefecture were found to have higher than allowable (per Japanese government standards, but some still with US FDA guidelines) levels of cesium. Therefore, as a precaution, we have decided not to carry any 2011 tea from Shizuoka Prefecture and northward (i.e. Sayama, Saitama Prefecture) until further testing shows all tea from the prefecture to be within compliance. This may be an overreaction, but we would rather be safe than sorry. But, we have purchased some remaining Shizuoka tea from the 2010 harvest. This includes limited quantities of our Chashi Meijin Fukamushicha, Kawane Genmaicha, Asahina Karigane, and Shizuoka Kukicha and Houjicha. Once this inventory is deleted, it will be replaced with 2011 harvest teas from Kagoshima; including Fukamushicha, Kukicha, and Houjicha. If you prefer the 2011 offerings from Kagoshima, they are available now so please make a note in the comment portion of you order and we can substitute on request.

We have also added a new Organic Sencha offering. This Yutakamidori varietal from Yakushima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture is light, with mild sweetness (amami) and low astringency. Since Yakushima is located about 65 km south of Kyushu, some tea farmers there have taken advantage of their relative isolation to encourage organic farming practices. Yakushima is one of the Ousumi Islands of Kagoshima Prefecture and is located about 65 km south of the main island of Kyushu. Much of the island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for ancient forests of old growth (as much as 1,000 - 4,000 years old!) sugi (cryptomeria) trees. The island is also home to Rhododendron and Yakushima White Pine, as well as the largest nesting ground in the North Pacific for the endangered Loggerhead Sea Turtle. We are very pleased to offer our customers this organic tea option from this magical place!

Lastly, I want to thank all of you who have sent support and kind wishes for continued relief efforts in Japan. Countless individuals and industries across the country are working hard to rebuild lives and livelihoods. We continue to send our thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery to the tea farmers, potters, colleagues, friends, relatives, and residents of Japan. Many thanks to all of you who are doing the same.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

MAY 2011: I've put together a small concert to generate some funds to forward to the Japan Red Cross. Details of the event to be held on Sunday, June 5th (2 concerts, 1Pm & 7pm) are below. The musicians are both world-class, and the space of a Zen meditation hall in Bellingham, WA will surely be healing. If you'd like to help spread the word, please send me an e-mail and I'll forward the press release and a concert flyer (in your preference of a pdf, pub, or word file) to post or forward to your contacts.

For those of you who live outsde of the Pacific NW area, or who are unable to attend; the CD "Shadows of Time" by the two featured musicians, Gary Stroutsos & David Revelli, is available for purchase on-line at my Charaku website, From now through the month of June, 20% of each CD sold will be added to the benefit concert proceeds, of which 100% is being donated to Japan earthquake relief. Gary's CD, "Sacred Clay," featuring the clay instruments of ceramic artist Rod Kendall, is also available on-line,, and 20% of this recording's sales proceeds will go to the Mashiko Pottery Fund, established just days after the Tohoku Earthquake to help rebuild Mashiko's historic kilns, such as that at the Shoji Hamada Museum (Mashiko Sankokan,) and to help working potters re-establish kilns and inventory damaged by the quake. Shadows of Time, $15.00 / Sacred Clay $10.00; ships first-class in the US for $3.00.

Here are the benefit concert details:

WORLD MUSIC BENEFIT CONCERTS FOR JAPAN EARTHQUAKE / TSUNAMI RELIEF The Red Cedar Dharma Hall in Bellingham will host two benefit concerts for Japan Earthquake/Tsunami relief on Sunday, June 5th at 1:00pm and 7:00pm. Both shows will feature World Flute Artist Gary Stroutsos accompanied by Master Percussionist David Revelli.

Seattle-based Gary Stroutsos is an international performer, composer, and educator whose music is drawn from a variety of world cultures; including Native American, Asian, and American Jazz. His soundtrack work on the Ken Burns "Lewis & Clark" documentary led to a command performance at the White House for President Clinton, and his performance and recording work in sacred spaces has taken him from Buddhist temples in the mountains of central Japan to the depths of New Mexico's Canyon de Chelley National Monument,

David Revelli's percussion reperatoire spans Western, Middle Eastern, East Indian, and African instruments. He has been a world-touring percussionist for such well-known names as Sheryl Crow, Jewel, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. He now makes his home in the Pacific Northwest and is a full-time educator. He has returned to the primal sounds of Middle Eastern frame drums and Nigerian clay udus that have complemented the haunting melodies of Stroutsos' flutes in performances around the region, and in their newly released CD, "Shadows of Time." These concerts are sure to insprire compassion, spirituality, and healing. Tickets: $20.00 at the door. All ticket proceeds go to Japan Earthquake relief. Tea will also be served by Charaku Fine Japanese Tea.

Advance reservations and further information available at Charaku Fine Japanese Tea

206-660-4189. Red Cedar Dharma Hall is located at 1021 N. Forest Street, Bellingham, WA 98225. Directions:
APRIL 2011:
To the many friends & customers who wrote or called me after the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, I give my heartfelt thanks. Many of my relatives are actually located in Miyagi Prefecture, in the cities of Sendai and Natori, near the epicenter of the quake and the region that suffered the most extensive damage. Miraculously, they survived, but it was agonizing not being able to make contact for the first several days. We also have friends in Fukushima, not far from the Daiichi nuclear reactor. A few generations back, my family came from the coastal village of Shizugawa (now Minamisanriku,) which was almost completely erased by the tsunami. Life will certainly be difficult for most in the region for some time to come. Hundred of aftershocks continue to rattle Japan, including one of 7.4 magnitude on April 6. They are all in our thoughts and prayers daily. I know that many of you also have connections to Japan so I understand that this difficult time is being shared by many around the world. My former home of Mashiko in Tochigi Prefecture also experienced widespread damage to many historic and working kilns, as well as the loss of much pottery. The kiln of the late Shoji Hamada was badly damaged at the Hamada Sankokan Museum. This small town is home to a reported 400 kilns and is one of the largest pottery centers in the Japan, and an important site in the contemporary pottery world. The life of a potter is difficult enough, but the loss of inventory and means of production are making it even more so at this time. A link to the newly established Mashiko Potters Fund to rebuild the town’s pottery industry, and those of other relief organizations are listed at the end of this message. I have also heard many inquiries and concerns regarding the safety of Japan’s next tea harvest which is set to begin later this month. Many questions surrounding this complex issue have been very detailed, so I’m providing you with as much information as possible below. Although the news reports in Japan are changing almost daily, there is currently no indication that any of the major tea growing regions have been directly affected by the recent disasters in NE Japan, including the challenges being faced at the Daiichi Nuclear Reactor in Fukushima. There may be production slow downs in certain areas due to the rolling electricity shortages. US & International Customs clearance is also expected to take longer as more stringent inspection methods are being put into place. Since radiation levels are being monitored all around Japan and US Customs is being increasingly diligent on incoming shipments, we are also confident that the incoming products will all be completely safe. So, we do expect to receive shipment of the new harvest tea early this summer. Should you still have concerns and would like to stock up on tea from the 2010 harvest, we still have limited quantities in inventory. As with all Charaku tea, these items are nitrogen-flushed fresh packed so they are still good into 2012. A few varieties are sold out already, but we still have some stock of most teas. Please feel free to e-mail or call me if you have questions about availability, or would like toplace a large order. More information in English on the current nuclear situation in Japan is available at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at You can also check daily radiation level monitoring by prefecture in Japan at the MEXT-Japan (Ministry of of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technolgy) website, So far, it shows nothing out of the ordinary in any of the tea growing regions which supply Charaku Fine Japanese Tea. Below, I am also providing distance information for our tea producers in relation to distance from the town of Ookuma in Fukushima Prefecture where the Daiichi Nuclear Reactor is located. You can then check by prefecture with the above MEXT site.-Saitama Prefecture: Sayama Sencha, Sayama City 355 km / 220 miles.-Shizuoka Prefecture: Tea farms from Okabe, 447 km / 278 miles, to Kakegawa, 506 km / 314 miles, produce our Ashikubo Sencha, Chashi Meijin Fukamushicha, Asahina Kabusecha, Asahina Karigane, Genmaicha, Kukicha, and Houjicha.-Aichi Prefecture: Premium Organic Matcha, Nishio 500 km / 310 miles.-Kyoto City: Uji Sencha, Kyoto 625 km / 388 miles.-Fukuoka Prefecture: Yame Sencha & Gyokuro, Yame City 1,125 km / 699 miles.-Miyazaki Prefecture: Takachiho Kamairi Tamaryokucha, Takachiho 1,126 km / 700 miles.-Kagoshima Prefecture: Chiran Sencha, Chiran Town 1,264 km / 785 miles, & Ei Sencha, Ei Town 1,277 km / 793 miles. And for those of you who would like to donate to the continuing relief work in what looks to be one of the largest recovery and rebuilding efforts in history, here are a few links to organizations where you can donate directly to Japan relief funds. -American Red Cross Red Cross (this is the English portion of the site and they do accept Paypal payments) Potters Fund: In the U.S., Mud Flat Studios in Somerville, MA (a 501(c)3 non-profit organization) is acting as the U.S. fiscal sponsor and can transfer payments by Paypal, credit card, check, etc. to the Fund in Japan. Click on the 2nd option, “Mashiko Potters Fund,” at the donation site, You can also wire money directly to the Mashiko Potters Fund in Japan. Please contact me and I can provide the Fund’s bank account information. Again, thank you all for your kindness and support during this difficult time in Japan. Our thoughts and prayers are with those most affected by this natural disaster. I will keep you up to date on any new developments or changes in the situation. Until then, I hope we can all take comfort in the spirit of tea that connects all of us.
(woodblock print image: "View of Matsushima with a Distant Prospect of Mt. Tomi in Michinoku Province" by Ando Hiroshige, from the "Famous Views of the 60-Odd Provinces" (1853-1856.)