Karamono tea caddy in the taikai style, with inscription reading ‘Tainaikai’

[Designated Cultural Property of Yamagata Prefecture]

Southern Song Dynasty, China (13C)

‘Karamono’ is a general term referring to artworks and objects that were imported from China––primarily the Song (960–1279), Yuan (1271–1368), and Ming (1368–1644) Dynasties––and collected by the Japanese upper class. All kinds of karamono, including tea caddies and bowls, were imported from the Kamakura period (1185–1333) onwards, and were especially prized during the Muromachi period (1336–1573).

In China, vessels like this would have been used as jars to hold medicines and oil, but Japanese tea masters are said to have used them as tea containers. With its wide mouth and generous shape, this tea caddy was christened ‘taikai chaire’ or ‘vast ocean tea caddy,’ as it could seemingly hold as much tea as an ocean. The base material is a sticky brown clay, covered with a brown glaze. A black glaze has been applied from the mouth down to the shoulder of the container for a visually striking effect. It was acquired by the Homma family from the Sakai family, who once ruled over the Shonai domain.