Wednesday, December 4, 2013


When I think of the Japanese art of presentation, I think of this book I have of the work of Rosanjin in use. In one particular picture there is this wonderful table arranged with serving pieces made by Rosanjin with food that was all prepared by some famous chef (sorry, I forgot his name). From simple tempura, sashimi and sushi to elaborate and exquisitely prepared dishes, the presentation is phenomenal. In the case of Rosanjin, the presentation is the completetion of his work, the pottery acts as the canvas and is completed by the food which is presented as the art. It is in the Japanese art of presentation that I am constantly overwhelmed by in both its simplicity and originality. In the art world, how a work of art is presented has many corollaries to that of food. While In Japan I remember seeing a Chojiro chawan in a box from the middle 17th century that was also accompanied by boxes by successive owners including the modern black lacquer box that contained all of the boxes which neatly fit in to one another, 6 in total, like one of those sets of famous Russian matryoshka dolls.
One of the things I admire about Japanese culture is that act of presentation that is seen throughout daily life. From the use of plain to fancy furoshiki wrapping cloth(s) and elaborate mizuhiki knots to the more ceremonial nature of ikebana to the tea room with decorated tokonoma with scroll and flower vase and precisely arranged chadogu; the arts of presentation are alive and well. Specific to pottery, there are pots with multiple boxes, the outer box many times lacquered in a rich black or vermillion lacquer, the kiri boxes bearing the hakogaki or the potter, subsequent owners, dealers, chajin, priests and sometimes ordinary collectors. Together with boxes, many pots have tailored bags, shifuku made of old, rustic or fancy textiles and this practice is obviously not limited to chaire, though it is often times the chaire we most associate with shifuku. Case in point is the illustrated package, a very rich presentation that includes a black lacquer box to house the interior kiri wood box with hakogaki. Inside the kiri box is a wood container, with its own shifuku that houses the chaire within its rich, regal purple crepe silk bag and along with the piece are two shifuku that can be used at various times of year or at differing tea gatherings. All in all a rather luxurious presentation that begs the question, "what's in the box?".