An unusual, old Bizen fresh water jar (mizusashi) in shape of a woven bamboo basket. In 17th-century Japan, when the Japanese tea ceremony was not restricted anymore to a small elite but became more and more popular among wealthy merchants, the artisans began largely to experiment with materials, shapes and forms. Holding a tea ceremony at that time had also prestigious reasons. The host wanted to show his precious items and wanted to entertain and surprise his guests as testimonial for his creativity. In that context, also some very unusual objects were created, like this fresh water jar that looks like a woven basket on the first glance but is entirely made of clay. The illusion is perfect, since the potters even skillfully managed to create the soft and shiny texture of darkened bamboo baskets.
Bamboo baskets are usually more associated with the seventeenth-century Chinese-inspired tradition of brewing steeped tea. However, there exist some stories that are connecting the use of bamboo baskets with the Japanese tea ceremony. For instance, when famous tea master Sen no Rikyū was asked to prepare tea for Toyotomi Hideyoshi during a battle. According to that story, Sen no Rikyū was worried that their was no suitable flower container available. He noticed a fisherman in the distance with a basket for sweet fish hanging from his waist, purchased the basket and displayed a simple pumpkin flower in it. Hideyoshi was so delighted by that simple elegance of the container that he praised it until his death.
This story in mind, the Bizen mizusashi here could arouse some memories on that famous basket. Even though the plaited walls are a bit different, the shape and the mouth's style of wrapping bear many similarities.
The mizusashi comes in a modern wooden box that was inscribed by the art historian and pottery specialist Katsura Matasaburō (1901-1986) who also dates this piece to the early Edo period.