Idle Chat about Korean (Kourai) Tea Bowls
by TANI Akira, Curator of the Nomura Museum of Fine Art

Popular Kourai Tea Bowls
Once I was asked, “What is the most popular type of Korean tea bowl passed down?” However, that is not just a difficult question to answer correctly, but really a close to impossible one to answer. The same as with other tea utensils, each person has his own preference. While there are those who like irabo bowls, there are also those who like totoya bowls. Furthermore, even those bowls in the same irabo or totoya group, the feeling each bowl possess differs. Furthermore, women make up an overwhelming amount of the world of chanoyu after WWII, and really, I think the sort of tea utensils favoured by women have become the mainstream.
Upon looking at the chakai records, the most common is ido bowls, then goki bowls, and then mishima and katade bowls. But the nature of chakai records is not the same thing as popularity. Looking at them, it seems ido bowls are the most popular and goki bowls the second most, but I wouldn’t really say that. Also, while I have about a rough idea of what famous passed bowls are in possession of art museums, I haven’t the slightest idea of what bowls might be in private possession of individuals.
Like this, while I wouldn’t as a rule say what kourai tea bowl is the most common or most popular, currently because comparatively totoya and soba bowls are often seen in the chakais held today, I think musn’t there have been many that were passed down to private individuals?

The Origin of the Name Totoya and Types
First, in modern times Totoya is usually written with those characters (which mean “House of Dippers”), but it is also written “House of Fish” or “House of Imports”. The origin of this name is said to be that Rikyu first noticed it in Sakai at a fish dealers or that a certain famous person called Fishhaus once possessed it. For certain, a person with the trade name of Fishhaus–Ryoukou Totoya–appears in the Tennouji-ya Record, but we don’t have any established facts.
Well, if you ask what sort of elements are characteristic of a totoya bowl, actually there isn’t one type established, but three types of bowls are called totoya.
One type has a fairly wide feel to its body with a solid foot, and are often not glazed all the way to the foot. These are called True (Honte) Totoya. Another type is a low bowl near to a hira-chawan in height, whose foot is very typically clearly carved out, and many are glazed all the way to the inside part of the foot. These are called Flat (Hira) Totoya. Finally, the other type is rather larger, completely different compared to the first and second type. The walls rise up gently from the base of the foot, but the upper part of the bowl doesn’t really open up, instead being cylindrical. The glaze usually reaches all the way into the inner part of the foot. This type doesn’t have a specific name.
Thus there are three types of bowls with, as far as we can see, different shapes, clay, and glazes. I am not really sure why the are all considered a type of totoya, but if I had to say, perhaps it is due to the nature of the glaze being similar? However, even saying this, the glaze too differs, sometimes having a fairly strong yellowish colour and sometimes exhibiting a blue colour.
野村美術館館長 谷晃(たに あきら)