The traditional ‘Zori’, are sandals with a Tatami sole. This type of Japanese footwear allows free flow of air around the foot. What a contrast with a pair of British slippers, whose very purpose is to insulate! Climate differences have certainly made themselves felt in the respective design of indoor footwear.
The traditional enamel saucepan is of a type we might remember from our grandparents’ kitchen. British saucepans, with their distinct long handle, are little altered. The Japanese example, with its hand-beaten surface and untreated wooden handle, shows an appreciation for craft and the aesthetic of the handmade.
The German enamel ladle, with its utilitarian form and mottled decoration, contrasts with the Japanese, made from the surprising material choice of wood. The enamel ladle is almost exclusively for food, whereas the wooden ladle can be found at the entrance to tea gardens for the washing of hands.
The Japanese jug demonstrates the preference for a matt surface glaze. It has no handle- it is simply grasped. Though not actually hand thrown, this jug clearly has many attributes of a craft object. Paradoxically, the British ‘Denby' jug is in fact handmade, but strives to achieve the uniformity of mass production.
A balloon whisk in stainless steel contrasts with the exquisite delicacy of a Japanese tea whisk. The Japanese ‘Chasen’ is used to mix green matcha powder with hot water, and is an essential element of the traditional tea ceremony. The ubiquitous Western balloon whisk does not carry connotations of refinement and formality.
Two traditional lunch boxes. The marbled enamel example is from France, where lunch boxes of this type were used by labourers and schoolchildren alike. The interior reveals a small, lift out tray for bread. The circular box in Japanese cedar likewise has a removable inner tray. Its smooth flawless finish makes it a joy to handle.
This simple Japanese ‘Yunomi’ is an everyday cup for tea drinking. Sensibilities towards crockery can differ between East and West. The Western ceramic traditions tends to favour smooth, shiny surfaces. In Japan, uneven, often matt textured surfaces are not uncommon. The classic British ‘Berylware’ cup and saucer reminds us of summer fetes and vicarage tea parties!
These paintbrushes, though superficially similar, are constructed in quite different ways. Is it just familiarity with the Western example that makes the Japanese brush so interesting? The single piece handle divides to grip the bristles tightly and has an undeniably Eastern line.
The ‘Tawashi’ scourer is made from Hemp Palm fibres bundled together around a wire core. Highly tactile objects, these scourers are still commonly used in Japan. In Western kitchens, the knitted, metallic scourer is a more familiar sight. Seen here out of context, each scourer assumes characteristics of a surrealist art object.
These two caddies are similar in form, but on different scales. Since the 1930s, Cornishware has been instantly recognisable in Britain, with its coloured stripes evoking the sea and skies of Cornwall. The size of this caddy makes it a perfect container for tea bags. Meanwhile, the traditional Japanese example is used for loose tea. It is handmade from raw tin and is intended to develop a weathered patina with use. Also shown is the copper scoop, which normally lives inside the caddy.
Here we find two opposite approaches: The Japanese saw cuts on the pull stroke whereas the traditional Western saw cuts as you push. The different methods have evolved because of the types of wood they were required to cut. The refined Japanese saw works well on a soft wood like cedar; the more robust European saw tackles harder woods such as oak.
Tea is considered a national drink in both Japan and Britain. The aesthetic of both teapots is redolent of their culture. The traditional Brown Betty is a common sight on many British breakfast tables. This classic round teapot, made from the red clay found in Staffordshire, is considered the ideal shape for producing the perfect cuppa. In Japan, the iron ‘Tetsubin’ teapot is favoured for both heating and brewing, partly because the iron changes the taste of the water, making the tea mellow and sweet.
Now that our 2018 Calendar is sold out, we will be sharing each monthly image on our blog throughout the year.
For this calendar we are comparing domestic items from the Eastern and Western worlds. Whenever we visit Japan, we are fascinated by the way in which our different cultures approach similar tasks, and the way in which generic products have evolved in consequence. Our choice of calendar subjects is unashamedly esoteric, but we hope you will enjoy a very personal appreciation of the singularities of East and West.