Japanese Art in the Asia Society Collection

Asia Society

Oribe Serving Dish
Square Serving Dish with Bail Handle
Gifu Prefecture
Momoyama period, late 16th century
Stoneware painted with iron brown on slip underglaze and a partial overlay of copper green glaze (Mino ware, Oribe type)

Higher Pursuits for Men

These wares were used in the kaiseki, a meal served before the more formal types of tea ceremonies. As much as the tea culture and its rituals were symptomatic of burgeoning ideals of democracy and equality, this highly communal and spiritual event was reserved for the cultured gentleman-warrior. Women were not allowed to participate or administer the tea ceremony until the nineteenth century. Defined gender roles in the use of ceramic wares persist today in Japan, and are emphasized visually in sets of drinking cups for couples in which the man's is larger than the woman's. Ironically, in modern-day Japan, the tea ceremony has finally come to embrace women, and functions as one of many female pastimes as well as a "skill" that defines their marriageability, along with others such as flower arrangement and the culinary arts.