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Japanese Bowls

Japanese bowls were used for three main purposes: eating, tea-drinking, and ceremony. For eating and drinking, Japanese bowls are referred to as “chawan." Singing bowls used during ceremony to assist with chanting and meditation are called “suzu” and are actually bells or gongs.

Japanese food chawan are used mainly for consuming noodles, rice, or soup. They can make exceptional decorative pieces or can be used for dining. These bowls are made out of plastic, ceramic, or lacquered wood. Japanese techniques for bowl making have been picked up historically from Chinese bowl making, so similarities between cloisonne, porcelain, and other decorative techniques can be seen between the two cultures.

Because gold was abundant in Japan during the mid-17th century, Japanese bowls often were adorned with gold decorations. Imari porcelains were particularly popular as exports to the Western world during this time. Imari porcelain bowls are characterized by their use of cobalt blue, red, and gold. This color combination is unique to Japan and is therefore highly sought after even now.


Quick Facts

  • In forming bowls, whether for food or drink, Japanese potters were able to make very symmetrical and precise decorations. However, especially for ceremonial purposes, imperfections were elevated as unique identifying features
  • Rather than delicate porcelain cups, the Japanese preferred dark, thick-walled bowls for drinking tea. The thicker walls were preferred for the ability to retain heat
  • Donburi are deep, oversized Japanese rice bowls used to serve foods like fish, meat, or vegetables that are all cooked together and then served over steamed rice. Donburi meals are, to this day, considered Japanese comfort food

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Sellers Who Sell Japanese Bowls


World Auction Gallery

World Auction Gallery

Los Angeles Modern Auctions

Los Angeles Modern Auctions

Orion Asian Art

Orion Asian Art

Lion and Unicorn

Lion and Unicorn