Black Raku tea bowl with inscription reading ‘Sabisuke Chōjirō’

[Designated Cultural Property of Sakata City]

Momoyama period (16C)

This elegant tea bowl was named ‘Sabisuke’ for its unusual, rusty iron colour. (‘Sabi’ means ‘rust.’) With its slightly hollowed-out mouth and relatively tall foot at its base, the bowl has been hand-sculpted in such a way that it will nestle in the palms of the drinker’s hands. Produced to 16th century tea practitioner Sen no Rikyū’s liking, this plain black tea bowl is representative of wabi-cha, a style of tea ceremony centered on the idea of rustic simplicity.

‘Sabisuke’ was made by Tanaka Chōjirō (?–1589), the founding father of the Raku family line of potters. Under Sen no Rikyū’s guidance, he began making Raku ware for use in tea ceremony, and produced many masterpieces. His distinctive pieces, developed specifically for the appreciation of tea, would go on to influence future generations of ceramicists all over the world.