Japanese tea house lets visitors drink from $25,000 antique bowls

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(CNN) – Participate in the ancient Japanese tradition, sip from the $ 25,000 antique bowl and get a glimpse of the 1970s “Austin Powers” vibe.

All can be part of the gallery Okubo’s experience in Tokyo’s Yanaka District, where antique merchant Mitsuru Okubo and his family experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony with a twist – a selection of new to over 300-year-old bowls, along with the price of some old museum-quality pieces. જેટલી 25,000.

The idea behind the gallery is to make the visitor feel the bowl and taste the drink as the Japanese masters of the tea ceremony wanted – and at an affordable price. It is accessible to the art and history masses.

Of course, there are some modern options available if you break a cold sweat thinking about what would happen if you dropped an 18th century, $ 25,000 bowl.

Entering the gallery on a quiet side street, visitors are greeted on a small first floor with a display of various cups, bowls and plates. Okubo’s daughter, Atsuko, then comes out of the adjoining room to greet the visitors and takes them to the Tatami room on the second floor in a tight flight of stairs, the traditional setting for the tea ceremony.

Accommodation is arranged for western visitors with regular chairs arranged on the sunken floor, so visitors do not have to sit cross-legged on the floor like in the Japanese tradition – and that can be extremely painful if you are not used to it. That

Tea bowls are placed on four shelf stands in a small room next door. These are your choices, Atsuko explains in English, then publishes some interesting details about each bowl, such as age, origin and the tea master who endorsed them.

Atsuko Okubo shows some of his family's ancient tea bowls that are available for customers to choose from for use during Japanese tea ceremonies.

Atsuko Okubo shows some of his family’s ancient tea bowls that are available for customers to choose from for use during Japanese tea ceremonies.

Brad Landon / CNN

Etsuko’s idea was to make these antique bowls accessible to the public.

As an antiques dealer, her father collected many items, but sales at the gallery were slow and most of the bowls were hidden, their boxes collecting dust and not giving anyone pleasure. Atsuko thought that giving him a job at a tea party would set the family’s business apart from the dozens of other tea parties available for Japanese visitors.

But her father curated the bowls, and she’s excited to add details about it. There is a dark, wide one from Belgium that was designed for other purposes, but the tea master considered it suitable for the ceremony.

Or a light colored bowl with brightly colored circles, squares and triangles on it. It looks like it was made in the 1970s, and you can imagine the movie Comic SuperSpy Austin Powers drinking from it.

Mitusuro Okubo says that’s what makes it special – it blends the ancient and the modern. And even though it’s only around 50 years old, its price is still around $ 15,000.

Atsuko Okubo performs a tea ceremony.

Atsuko Okubo performs a tea ceremony.

Brad Landon / CNN

Okubo shows another bowl that is about 200 years old. For the untrained observer, there seem to be many imperfections; It is not symmetrical and has distortions.

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“Imperfection is human,” says Okubo, and that’s what gives this bowl its kind of value of thousands of dollars.

It shows the second, current day bowl. It’s beautiful, but perfect. It costs about 100.

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“Perfect for robots. This bowl is a robot,” he says.

And the robots are interchangeable so if a visitor is afraid to leave a 25,000 bowl, this is available. Also suitable for children, Atsuko adds, so they can share the experience with their parents, who are not worried about a multi-thousand dollar disaster.

Today’s visitors choose them – the 300 year old bowl and the 1970 bowl. Atsuko wearing a kimono begins the ritual.

Sweet cakes are served before the tea is served.

Sweet cakes are served before the tea is served.

Brad Landon / CNN

Keeping guests on their knees at right angles, he prepares tea methodically and intentionally.

Using a wooden stick at the end of a long stick to get hot water out of the pot, she pours it into a bowl of the mixture and mixes it with a whisk of tea. The water directed by its movements is the only sound of birds singing outside.

Visitors are served a sweet cake of jelly and bean paste that looks like a hydrangea flower, the tea is transferred to a bowl of visitors ’choice and served hot.

Following the prescribed ritual, visitors pick up their expensive bowls, one hand on the side, one down support.

The taste is superb and covers everyone, so forget the fact that they have thousands of dollars worth of ceramics in their hands.

This is the best experience in Japan.

Atsuko carefully places his supplies and bowl, his father comes up the stairs with gifts for the guests – hand-drawn and colored pictures of the bowl used by each visitor and the sweet dessert they had, with an explanation of its origin and significance.

Surprisingly, just drawing from memory, Okubo matches the design of the geometric figures on the 1970s bowl. It is art on a very personal level.

Antique dealer Mitsuro Okubo gives lucky guests an original picture of his tea cup and an explanation of their origin.

Antique dealer Mitsuro Okubo gives lucky guests an original picture of his tea cup and an explanation of their origin.

Brad Landon / CNN

It’s been 90 minutes or so, but looking at those shelves of thousands of dollars of bowls, no one can help, but note that this is the land of earthquakes, and often when an earthquake strikes, there are pictures of scattered bowls. . And the plates that were shaken from his post.

So what

“I come to this first place when an earthquake strikes,” says Atsuko.

If you go

Gallery Okubo is open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The address is 6-2-40 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo, about a 15-minute walk from Nippori train station, which sits on many major rail lines.

The cost of the tea ceremony is 2,200 yen (16) per person, and reservations are indicated.

Top image: Green tea is served in a 300 year old antique bowl. Credit: Brad Landon / CNN

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