Tea cannisters from Kyoto and wooden buckets from Shiga

Enjoy a display of tea canisters from Kyoto and wooden buckets from Shiga in The Shop at Japan House London this season. 

Chazutsu tea canisters from Kyoto

Pioneered by imported tinplate from the United Kingdom, the production of Kaikadō’s tinplate canisters began in Kyoto in 1875. In the Edo period (1603–1868 CE), tin, porcelain and ceramics were widely used to make tea containers, although tinplate canisters were not made before. When a metal collection act was implemented during World War II, craftspeople concealed their tools by burying them and continued making tea canisters in hiding. After the war, Japan entered a period of high economic growth, and goods manufactured overseas became popular. Despite the subsequent trend of machine-made goods being considered superior to handmade ones, there remain some outposts of hand-crafted tea canisters.

Kioke wooden buckets from Shiga

The production method of wooden buckets was brought from the Asian continent around 700 years ago, in the Muromachi period (approx. 1336–1573 CE). There are various methods: kurimono, or hollowing, where the wood is hollowed out using a chisel; hikimono, or woodturning, where the wood is carved using a rotating wheel or lathe; and sashimono, or joinery, where wood is joined together to form the bucket. Kioke are created using another technique called yuimono, or binding. It involves several pieces of wood bound together into a round shape using bamboo strips. In the Edo period (1603–1868 CE) wooden buckets were used in every household as tubs for bathing and containers for food such as rice and miso. Over time, however, they began to disappear.

About Kaikadō

Kaikadō was established in 1875 during the period of rapid industrialization in Japan. The founder, Yamamoto Seisuke, was the first to design and commercialize tea canisters made of tinplate. His goal was to create a well-designed and functional vessel for tea. In the past when there were no refrigerators, airtightness was of utmost importance for storing freshly picked leaves for long periods without compromising their flavour or quality. The process of making tea canisters has over 130 steps. Kaikadō continues to follow the methods of the founder, completing each step of the process by hand, even using the original moulds. Yagi Takahiro (b. 1974), the sixth generation owner, is developing the products while still observing tradition.

About Nakagawa Mokkōgei

Nakagawa Mokkōgei founder, Nakagawa Kameichi (1913–1998), opened his workshop in Shirakawa in Kyoto. Today, the second-generation owner, Kiyotsugu (b. 1942), supervises the Kyoto workshop while third-generation Shūji (b. 1968) looks after the workshop in Shiga. In 2001, Kiyotsugu was designated as a Bearer of Important Intangible Cultural Property (also known as a ‘Living National Treasure’). His successor, Shūji is currently developing new products, such as champagne coolers, using time-honoured techniques. He makes wooden buckets by binding the wood with metal hoops without the use of nails. In order to develop world-class products, both craftsmen have introduced the latest technology into their work and strive to create kioke that are suitable for all environments, regardless of any change in humidity or temperature.