Tokoname Teapots

We have been admirers of hand-crafted Japanese Tokoname teapots for years. In fact, we featured a stylish black Tokoname teapot on the cover of our book, The Story of Tea. We had so many queries about purchasing that teapot after our book came out that we contacted the tea maker and ordered a quantity of these gorgeous tea vessels to sell.

Now, this many years later, that teapot is no longer being made. So we  re-kindled contacts we made in Tokoname during a brief visit there a few years back and placed an order for a special selection of stunning hand-made teapots. We asked to be sent photographs of works by master Tokoname potters and boy, did our man in Japan deliver! It was difficult for us to decide on which teapots to purchase, but we settled on a selection of stunning choices. Since then, we have sold dozens and dozens of these teapots and have the developed the utmost respect for these clay artists.

All of these teapots are unique, beautiful and desirable. Each teapot represents the vison of the clay artist regarding clay color ( some of this is contributed by the kiln ), shape, surface texture and decorating technique. We are thrilled to offer these functional works of art to our tea enthusiast customers and teawares collectors.

Tokoname has been a center of ceramic production since the 12th century and is, along with the kilns at Seto, Shigaraki, Echizen, Tanba,and Bizen, one of the oldest pottery production sites in Japan. Fortunately for those of us who are clay collectors, many pottery artisans in Tokoname have been honing their skills from a young age, and are now the clay masters.

Tokoname clay is instantly recognizable for its thin body, smooth surfaces and the hardness of the clay. Today, some artists are blending clays or adding grit to the clay to  achieve a different appearance in their teapots. But all of these teapots resonate as Tokoname as the spirit of the potters and the overall style of Tokoname prevails.

If one studies Japanese ceramics it quickly becomes apparent that all of the teawares from the historic kiln area have their own identity and are very difficult to confuse. Tokoname teapots bear no resemblance to Shino, Iga or Shigaraki – each type of teawares is unique and distinctive.

Tokoname teapots are sought after worldwide for many desirable features, such as balance in pouring; skillfully tailored, pleasing shapes; thin-walled sides; highly polished, fine, smooth surfaces or lightly textured, matte finishes; elegant aesthetics, and complete, precise functionality.

Tokoname teapots are made in a variety of shapes and utilize many techniques that are the result of both hand skills and tool work. These teapots are categorized as yakishime – high-fired unglazed stoneware. Tokoname teapots are made from an iron-rich clay, and are very fine in texture. The clay allows the teapot and the tea to interact in a positive way. Many tea connoisseurs believe that unglazed clay sweetens the tea or adds a little minerality or backbone to the flavor of the tea – and those who use these teapots (and Yixing teapots for Chinese oolongs and Pu-erh, and hand-crafted Korean teapots, too ) know what I mean.

In Japan, these stylish teapots are used to steep Japanese green teas, which are long in length and have characteristic thin, needle-like leaves. Japanese green teas are quite different in size and appearance from Chinese green teas, and the best ones are steeped and drunk in small quantities. Accordingly, these teapots may be smaller than what many black tea drinkers may be accustomed to, but they are perfectly sized for steeping Japanese ( or Chinese or Korean ) green teas.

Most Tokoname teapots are kyusu-style teapots, which means that they are constructed with one handle on the side of the teapot. Occasionally western-style handles are placed on these teapots, and these are referred to as ushirode-kyusu-style. If the handle is placed so that it arcs above the opening of the teapot then that is a dobin-style teapot.

Unlike lifeless factory made teapots, these little hand-made teapots are works of art with personality. Each teapot reflects the vision of the artist who made it, and each is as functional as it is beautiful. Any one of these teapots will enhance your tea steeping and tea drinking pleasure.

We requested that all of our teapots have a clay infuser ( not stainless steel or mesh ) built into the spout of the teapot to catch the tea leaves before they exit the teapot. These infusers come in two styles: a flattish sasame strainer or ball-strainer, depending on the preference of the potter.

Please visit our website: for more teapots and more details about these fantastic Tokoname teapots.

The most amazing packaging of all time !

All of our teapots arrived in perfect condition. The person who packed our order did a meticulous job and was  extraordinary careful. As we unpacked the boxes, we discovered that custom-fit cardboard ‘chests’ had been constructed for each grouping of 4-6 teapots. Each ‘chest’ was custom-sized and also lined with bubble wrap. All in all, the outer boxes contained 6 of these ‘chests.’  And each teapot was packed in a cardboard box of paulowina wood box. (This is in direct opposition to  shipments of Chinese ceramics, in which each piece is wrapped in bubble wrap and all are tossed into a previously used box.  I am sure a dose of ‘hope for the best’ goes in there, too!).

I so appreciate it when special items are carefully wrapped, and when the person packing and handling them treats them with the respect that they deserve.

One thought on “Tokoname Teapots

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s