Tale of Genji
SUMA (handcrafted Matcha Bowl)

This is limited edition only available in autumn and winter season.

(Please note: Because this item is made-to-order, it takes approximately 3 weeks from the time you order this item until the date it is shipped from Kyoto, Japan. Once ordered, any order change or cancel can NOT be accepted. If you order this item with other items, they will be shipped together.)

The Tale of Genji is one of the oldest novels in the world. Written by noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu of the Japanese Imperial Court, this novel is composed of 54 stories and more than 800 WAKA Japanese poems.
The work recounts the life of Hikaru Genji, from his birth to death, and afterward. Through the book, Murasaki describes the life of aristocracy, romance in the Imperial Court, and political disputes. She expertly portrays the internal emotion and expression of each character of her novel.
We, Hibiki-an have collaborated with Zenshoh Yamaoka, who is the leading expert of paintings derived from masterpieces in the middle ages and acclaimed Kyo Yaki artisan, to release a series of Matcha bowls featuring the Tale of Genji. Zenshoh Yamaoka selected 12 stories out of 54, one suitable for each month of the year, arranged by season. (Tale of Genji - Matcha Bowl page)

Zenshoh Yamaoka expresses luxury and elegance in the palace, the secrets of human nature in each scene, and WABI-SABI aesthetic during this time, by making full use of various techniques. For example, in order to portray the gorgeous scenes of the Imperial Court, he uses luxurious gold to paint clouds, Japanese traditional cloth KIMONO, auspicious ornaments and so forth. This effect characterizes the affluent lifestyle of the Japanese Imperial Court during this period and makes the Matcha bowl brilliant. Clouds are one of the key features of the bowl. Clouds are frequently used in Japanese traditional painting to separate and define space and time. The use of golden clouds makes this Matcha bowl bright and luxurious.

Since Hikaru Genji had a relationship with a woman who was an opposition figure in the Imperial Palace and he was thus condemned, he voluntarily withdrew from the palace and decided to live in SUMA, which was far from the capital. Life in SUMA was miserable and lonely, and he wanted to come back to the palace. The scenery of the sunset, the light from the sea, the towering hills with the autumn breeze and the crying of wild geese made him even more melancholy. The Tale of Genji talks about three main points: the impermanence of worldly things, retribution, and rise and fall. This chapter focused on his rise and fall, especially his decline.
This Matcha bowl expertly portrays the contrast and balance between the elegance and prosperity of Hikaru Genji and his sorrowful decline. The texture of earthenware also plays an important role to make perspective of depth. The painting illustrated on the bowl expresses the scene which Hikaru Genji saw in SUMA. He overlooked the view of SUMA at the top of the hill which autumn flowers were in full bloom. Two boats passed on the bay and a flock of wild geese flew in the autumn sky.
The expression of plaintiveness not only derives from his painting but also from its gray color glaze and earthenware texture, which is called KENZAN earthenware. Gold color clouds impart subtle elegance and capture the scene. Orange flecks are from a traditional technique known as GOHONDE, and its color reminds us of autumn sunset. In the inside of the bowl, a flock of wild geese flies far away towards the autumn sky, and it gives depth perception to the Matcha bowl. On the contrary to the use of gold color and techniques for its elegance, this bowl conveys loneliness and sorrow. The contrast between the rich elegance of the gold and the sorrow evoked by the dark and lonely scene are poignant and superb.

This Matcha bowl offers a glimpse into the subtle emotions and the WABI-SABI aesthetic during this period in the melancholy beauty of SUMA in autumn.



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Overview of SUMA

SUMA is the 12th of 54 stories in the Tale of Genji.

Hikaru Genji had a relationship with a woman who was part of the family of the political opposition in the Imperial Palace. He was condemned in the palace, and about to be sentenced to deportation. Before judgment, he voluntarily decided to withdraw from the palace and live in SUMA, which was far from the capital. Before his departure, there were tears from many at the palace because of the sorrow of parting. His legal wife sought to go with him, but he declined her request, and left his property and vassals with her.
He arrived at SUMA, which was far from the capital and faced the coast, and decided to live there. This isolated place made him lonely and miserable, and he missed the days he spent in the Imperial Palace and the women whom he loved. He recited numerous poems full of emotion and played the music which was full of melancholy and despondency. A few of his attendants felt sorrow whenever they heard his poems and music. Hikaru Genji noticed that his works brought sorrow not only to himself but to his attendants, and thus he decided not to share his grief. He made many WAKA and drawings to take his mind off his grief, and behaved cheerfully.

Hikaru Genji recited the following WAKA on a long autumn evening.
"The wind that waked you,
Came it from where my Lady lies,
Waves of the shore, whose sighs
Echo my sobbing?"

The Tale of Genji was translated into English by the scholar Arthur Waley and this version is highly regarded throughout the world. The original is very difficult even for Japanese to understand due to archaic language. If you would like to read more of the story, please refer to the below edition.

Translated by: Arthur Waley
Publishing company: TUTTLE PUBLISHING (R)

Zenshoh Yamaoka

Zenshoh Yamaoka was born in 1942. He worked under Zenjiroh Ueyama for 10 years, and then opened his own Zenshoh kiln in 1969.
His paintings derived from masterpieces in the middle ages are excellent. It is said his precise drawing techniques are in a class of their own. Indeed, he was officially designated as a traditional craftsman by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in 2002. His sophisticated, exquisite, elegant, and advanced drawing techniques receive high acclaim in the Kyo Yaki pottery industry.


- It is best to wash this item using only tepid water or mild chlorine-free dish washing detergent.
- If necessary, you may occasionally use a chlorine detergent.
- Do not sterilize by boiling, or in a dish washing machine.

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