Sunday, December 02, 2012


-Looking for the Japanese Thanksgiving menu & photos? Continue on to the next ("Thanksgiving 2012") post.-

December greetings! 
Our December Open House will be on Saturday, December 8th in Seattle, 10am-5pm.
Tea makes a great gift for the holidays; warm, healthy, & cultural enriching. We also have lots of pottery in which to serve it (see more below.) Please feel free to contact me (206.660.4189) for info
and directions if you are in the Seattle area.

I'll also be serving matcha at Tokara Japanese Confectionery in Seattle on Sunday, December 16th, 1-6pm. Charaku loose leaf teas and matcha will be for sale, along with Tokara-san's wonderful wagashi (Japanese seasonal sweets.) A bowl of matcha with an order of wagashi is $5, cash only. For take-out orders of sweets, it's best to reserve in advance. Contact Tokara-san for info, 206.784.0226,

Speaking of tea; I'm happy to announce that despite the slow economy and the unfavorable exchange rate, we're reducing prices on several of our teas.
As many of you know, we added more Organic Sencha offerings this past year, and the response has been such that we can now purchase in amounts to realize better pricing. Prices for Mizayaki, Oita, and Yakushima Organic Sencha are all reduced considerably. We're also spreading the savings out to some of our higher end teas and lowering prices on Yame Gyokuro and Takachiho Kamairicha by one dollar per 50 gram package, and by more than 50 cents on our Chashi Meijin Fukamushicha. Visit our tea shop page to order at these newly reduced prices.

On the craft side, we are pleased to now carry the work of Hanako Nakazato. Nakazato-san is a 14th generation potter from Japan. The Nakazato family is a well-known pottery family in Karatsu, Saga Prefecture, with the 12th generation Nakazato Taroemon being designated a National Living Treasure for Karatsu ceramics. Hanako moved to the US at age 16 to pursue her education. While in the US, she took a renewed interest in her cultural roots, especially the Japanese food culture, and decided to return home to to learn pottery from her father, Takashi Nakazato. She has now created her own unique style of contemporary functional wares in porcelain.  
Her debut exhibition at Manyodo Gallery in Tokyo, in 2000, she has 
shown her work extensively in Japan and the US. In 2007, she 
established her studio monohanako in Karatsu, Japan. In 2010, 
she established another studio, monohanakowest in Union, ME. 
She currently divides her time between Japan and the US. Visit the 
"Ceramics" catalog at WaSabiDou to see some of Ms. Nakazato's 
work. Here are some samples:

We're also receiving new work from Portland, Oregon potter, John Miller. John's work was very popular last year and sold out quickly. His forms are much inspired by 20th Century Mashiko potters such as Shoji Hamada and Tatsuzo Shimaoka, built on the strong technique learned under Ben Ryterband at Mass Art in Boston. The yunomi are certainly a pleasure to hold and use.

We have also recently acquired a lovely woodblock print by the late Clifton Karhu. "Takasegawa Spring" was printed in 1990 and depicts the Takase River, a canal that runs along Kitamachi Street n Central Kyoto, Karhu's home and favorite source of landscapes for his prints. It show the masterful technique of creating rain in the print's foreground.

Lastly, I'd like to mention an acquisition of several classic books on Japanese art and culture. Not only are these important works and sometimes rare titles; they are primarily first edition copies in new condition. Something for either the art or book collector, or reference guides for artists! 
Titles include: The Unknown Craftsman by Soetsu Yanagi, Hamada Potter by Bernard Leach, A Feast for the Eyes: The Japanese Art of Food Arrangement, Kaiseki: Zen Tastes in Japanese Cooking, Shibori, Karatsu Ware, Shigaraki: Potter's Valley, The Art of Rosanjin, The Tea Ceremony by Sen'o Tanaka, Yoshitoshi: The Splendid Decadent, The Genius of Japanese Design, and more! See the books page of our WaSabiDou site to see the complete list.

Thanks to all of you for your continued support throughout the year, which in turn, supports the many tea farmers and craftspeople on whom we depend for continuing their traditions and for meeting challenges with innovation. I'd also like to send out to our many friends on the US East Coast our wishes for full recovery from this fall's powerful storms.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012 - Pots in use... Pots Completed.

Thanksgiving 2012:  Pots in use.

I have yet to be a blogger who posts what or where I eat, but I thought I would depart from my usual sales announcements to a post showing some of our pottery collection in use.  It is when pots are put to use that they are truly completed. I hope you enjoy these images of pots with food.

A recent trip to the East Coast New England states has made me think much more about America's colonial history. As such, I decided on a Thanksgiving menu using ingredients that were more likely in use during the original Thanksgiving feast, in 1621, than the turkey-centered meal that we today consider "traditional." These would have included shellfish, such as lobster; wild fowl, corn, and root vegetables. Venison was also integral to the first Thanksgiving meal (but I was vetoed on this by the ladies of the house who felt that deer were too cute to eat.) To these, I applied some Japanese twists and a few tweaks of my own. The menu follows a kaiseki course format, although my food is a long way from the standards, tastes, and spirit of true kaiseki. I just used the courses as a guideline for developing a menu of my own amateur food. This this I added my true gratitude for good friends and good pots to enjoy on this Thanksgiving holiday.

KUMIDASHI: The preliminary course features a kumidashi-type of cup with kousen, a fragrant warm drink evocative of the season. Served here is our Charaku Gyokuro, from Yame in Fukuoka Prefecture, infused with fresh micro-planed grapefruit rind. Pottery: Kumidashi cups by Roy & Chieko Martin, formerly of Kasama, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan. Bon (tray) is Zouiko-nuri black lacquer & gold tray from Kyoto.

MUKOZUKE: The actual first course features a small amount of rice, miso soup, and food served in a mukozuke dish. Although simple black lacquer is preferred for the rice bowl, I've used a favorite kaki-glazed chawan by Soeya Shuuichi of Mashiko. The soup is corn and roasted butternut squash in corn stock with white miso, served in Sendai-nuri black lacquer. In another Mashiko-yaki dish is Lobster, leeks, & spinach simmered in sake and a light soy sauce broth.

WANMORI: A clear soup is served with the first appearance of sake to drink with the meal. Here, in a Sendai-nuri lidded black lacquer bowl is Turkey & grated apple balls and daikon radishes in consomme. (I had to work turkey in somehow!) A variety of guinomi (sake cups) on a Kamakura-bori lacquer tray are available for guests to choose. These include a few by the late NLT Shimaoka Tatsuzo of Mashiko, a slip-trailed Onta-yaki piece, and others. The sake ewer is a playful piece with paintings of kappa (water sprites.)  

YAKIMONO: A grilled dish. Wild fowl, such as duck and pigeon (and wild turkey) was plentiful in colonial times. We served duck breasts, with a light teriyaki-sauce and coarse-grained mustard. The 6-sided dish is of unknown origin, from my parents' collection, but is reminiscent of red & green overglaze Kutani ware but in stoneware and of simple design. More rice and sake are served with this dish. 

AZUKEBACHI: A dish left at the table, and in this case a simple salad of lightly boiled green beans with karashi (spicy mustard) - soy sauce dressing. The bowl is a lovely wood-fired, chatter-marked bowl by Maine potter, Betsy Levine. 

HASHIARAI: Literally translated as "chopstick wash," this is a palate cleanser much like a sorbet in a French course meal. Simply hot water flavored with kelp, I also added a crushed fresh cranberry for a subtle Thanksgiving tartness. The vessel is a mid-Edo Period (1600-1868) Imari Soba Choko with underglaze cobalt blue painting. 

HASSUN: Like other courses named after the dish used to serve them, a hassun is actually a bare cedar wood "plate" measuring "hassun, 8-sun." In it, the course features an item from both the sea and the land. Here, I used a small Shino glaze plate with scalloped edges by renowned Mino-yaki potter Kato Kozo to serve a single scallop pan-basted in soy-ginger-lime butter, and maitake (hen of the woods) mushrooms lightly sauteed in wasabi vinaigrette. We changed the sake server to a wood-fired Bizen-yaki tokkuri. The kiln placement over a cup leaves a round shadow, suggestive of a harvest moon. This evening's sake was Tsukasabotan, brewed in Kochi Prefecture on Shikoku Island. 

YUTOU, KOUNOMO: A yutou is a lacquer, spouted ewer to serve the scorched rice from the bottom of the pot with hot water. Instead, I've grilled salted rice balls, onigiri, stuffed with leftover turkey and cranberry sauce. This was a suggestion of my guests, initially half as a joke, to use the leftover apple-braised turkey thighs and cranberry-orange sauce from the kid's meal. We then discovered the similarity of cranberry sauce to the tartness of umeboshi (pickled plums) and gave it a try. The crunchy rice balls are served with Charaku Houjicha (Roasted Green Tea) from Chiran in Kagoshima Prefecture, and topped with toasted nori (seaweed.) The bowl is a vintage kaki-glazed Mashiko rice bowl.
Kounomono are pickles, and here we served the traditional takuan, pickled daikon radish named after the Buddhist monk, Takuan, and pickled gobo (burdock root.) The bowl is a contemporary piece with momiji (Japanese Maple) decoration by Dwo Wen Chen, a Connecticut potter originally from Taiwan. The technique used is to imprint real leaves on green clay that are then burned off in firing. Colored glaze is then painted into the leaves "ghost" and fired a second time. 

DESSERT: The dessert course in kaiseki cuisine includes both moist and dry Japanese confections served with matcha. I  gave this portion of the menu an American twist and went with an old-fashioned Apple Streusel. However, the surprise in the streusel topping was white miso, giving an additional element of umami to the dish. This was topped by another Japanese taste, yuzu-vanilla ice cream. Yuzu fruit is synonymous with winter in Japan, and the piquant flavor goes well with miso. This was served in a funky mug by Roy & Chieko Martin, formerly of Kasama, Japan, the same potters as the first dish used in the kumidashi course. A second dessert was brought by our guests, and was a perfect match for the season; a whipped sweet potato mousse topped with walnuts. It was somewhat reminiscent of both American sweet potato pie and Japanese kinton desserts. Another item for which to be thankful! We used a Shino-glazed square dish, wire cut in a thick slab by my good friend George Gledhill of Payette, ID.  

MATCHA: The finish to a formal meal is matcha. Although we used a number of chawan (bowls) for guests our Charaku Premium Organic Matcha, these two photographed nicely. One is an Oribe ware fuyu-chawan (winter tea bowl) with high sides and an image in a square window on the front. The other is a black raku bowl by Geoge Gledhill, who is noted above.

The good thing about Japanese cuisine - lots of small dishes served in beautiful pots. 
The bad thing about Japanese cuisine - lots of small dishes served in beautiful wash. ;)


Sunday, July 29, 2012


New harvest 2012 teas are now in! We are excited about some new teas that have been added to our line-up. These include two new organic offerings from Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands. Miyazaki Organic Sencha is an asamushi (ligh-steamed) sencha from Koyu County on Miyazaki’s east coast, a premier tea growing region for Miyazaki Prefecture. From neighboring Oita Prefecture comes Oita Organic Sencha, another asamushi-sencha, this one from Usuki, an area famous for the largest stone Buddhas in Japan, the Usuki Sekibutsu. Both are flavorful, with low to medium astringency. Our third new tea is from Kouchi Prefecture on Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s main islands. Even in Japan, Shikoku teas are fairly uncommon and I had not tasted one until recently. Our Kouchi Sencha is also asamushi, and comes from Tsuno Village in the Niyodogawa region. The clean waters of this area are essential to creating the famous Tosa Washi (handmade paper of Tosa) and also likely contribute to the favorable growing environment for this full flavored and slightly astringent tea. We’re also happy to bring back two of our popular teas from Shizuoka, Chashi Meijin Fukamushi Sencha from Kakegawa and Genmaicha from Kawane.

Although we did not purchase any tea from Shizuoka in 2011, the reports from 2012’s harvest were a great relief. Radiation levels in brewed tea from all regions of the prefecture came in as “Not Detectable.” A link to the report is here: However, due to the radiation findings last year in regions such as Okabe and Ashikubo, we did decide to wait yet another year to purchase tea from these areas. So unfortunately, we will not stock our Ashikubo Gold Sencha, Asahina Kabusecha, or Asahina Karigane for the 2012-2013 season, as well as our Sayama-cha from Saitama Prefecture. This year, Kyushu was also hit hard by heavy rain and flooding and one the areas worst affected was the town of Yame in Fukuoka Prefecture. This is where our Gyokuro comes from. And although our current stock is from the first harvest, prior to the rains, we are hopeful that the later summer harvests will continue to be available and delicious. We hope our other old & new offerings will give you plenty of variety to choose from and enjoy!

I’m also very proud to offer some wonderful pottery from the Tagami Family in the town of Mashiko, Japan. Mashiko was also hard hit by the earthquake last year (and a tornado this spring!) and has been rebuilding ever since. I met the Tagami Family when I lived in Mashiko in 1999-2000. They currently represent the family’s 4th & 5th generation of potters in Mashiko and carry on a traditional of producing functional ceramics with Mashiko aesthetics taught to the 3rd generation potter Sudo Takeo by National Living Treasure Hamada Shoji. These wares for tea and sake can be found on our WaSabiDou website,, as well as two tea cups on our Charaku Fine Japanese Tea website,, go to ‘shop’ pages under “tea ware.” We hope you will enjoy these fine examples of contemporary mingei (folk craft.)

In addition, we have several pieces available from good friend, George Gledhill of Payette, ID. These are mostly wood-fired, tea-related works from this spring’s firing of his newly built climbing kiln (noborigama) and are really exceptional. Again, please visit our WaSabiDou site to see the full inventory.

We still send our thoughts and prayers for a continued recovery to the tea farmers, potters, colleagues, friends, relatives, and residents of Japan. Many thanks to all of you who are doing the same.