AOI / SAWARABI Yunomi - pair (handcrafted)

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

Handcrafted teacup: Pair 130ml (4.58fl oz) each, diameter: 3.54inches (9.0cm) height: 2.17inches (5.5cm)
Extremely traditional Kyo Yaki (Kyoto Style)
Fired by Ichiraku Yamamoto at Ichiraku Kiln, designed by Zenshoh Yamaoka at Zenshoh Kiln

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 tea cups featuring the Tale of Genji. Zenshoh Yamaoka selected 4 stories out of 54, one suitable for each month of the year, arranged by season. (Tale of Genji Matcha Bowls + Cups 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. 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 teacup brilliant. Clouds are also one of the key features. Clouds are frequently used in Japanese traditional painting to separate and define space and time. The use of golden clouds makes the teacup bright and luxurious.

The design features several of Ichiraku’s expert techniques, which bring the Tale of Genji to life. Linear patterns are modestly carved in S-shaped curves from the middle to the base on the outside. An elevated line of clay encircles the middle on the outside of this work. It was created by a skilled technique requiring the artisan to painstakingly carve away everything except this elevated area. During the process, the Yunomi starts out quite thick and is carved to thin. It is deliberate work requiring much time, effort and mature technique.

Traditional waffle pattern called KOHSHI GARA on the inside rim and SEIKAIHA MONYO on the side of the base are also elegantly and carefully painted in zaffer glaze according to traditional methods of highest grade Kyo Yaki porcelain.

The story of AOI tells the tale of a quarrel between Aoi and Rokujo no Miyasudokoro at a festival in which Hikaru Genji took part. The festival was open to the public, and Rokujo no Miyasudokoro, who was a princess in the Imperial court, and had a relationship with Hikaru Genji went there. She had to move to another place with her husband, and wanted to see Genji before moving. Aoi, who was the first wife of Hikaru Genji was pregnant and did not feel well, but she was urged to see the festival to relax and feel refreshed. The road was so crowded by people and other carriages that Aoi could not pass through, but when they noticed Aoi's carriage, they cleared a path for her along the road. However, one carriage did not move out of the way, and that carriage belonged to Rokujo no Miyasudokoro. Aoi's followers pushed Rokujo's carriage away and destroyed it. Even though Rokujo secretly came to the festival to see Genji, she became involved in a very public dispute, and was deeply embarrassed.

The scene on this teacup portrays nobles taking an ox-drawn carriage to attend the festival and to see Hikaru Genji. A driver of a carriage sits in front of the carriage, waiting for the festival. Another carriage of nobles is still looking for the best place to stop. Carriages are elegantly painted with the use of golden color. A black ox with a powerfully build form is outlined in gold. Golden clouds add to the noble atmosphere of this teacup. Not only the golden color but also green color of the hills and pines accent the design.

SA means early, and WARABI is one of the edible wild plants grown and harvested in spring, so SAWARABI in this sense means edible wild plant harvested in early spring. The story of SAWARABI begins with a Buddhist sending WARABI wild plants to two women in early spring.

SAWARABI is a story of the marriage and moving of Nakanokimi, who is a woman living in the Uji area. The scene in which Nakanokimi fondly remembers her days in the palace is illustrated on this teacup. When Kaoru, who is the second son of Hikaru Genji, visited the palace and got a glimpse of her in the room, she and her attendants were overwhelmed. They recollect the days they spent in this palace, especially the time spent with her older sister, Ohkimi who had already passed away. Not only their KIMONO traditional cloth but also the building is elegantly decorated in order to evoke the luxurious image of the Imperial Palace, but in contrast to its elegance, her face looks down, showing her feelings of sorrow. Even though plum trees in the garden produce red flowers which are in full bloom as if they celebrate her marriage, her face brings a sense of melancholy. Zenshoh Yamaoka expertly expresses the contradiction between the external splendor of the palace, symbolizing happiness, and Nakanokimi’s inner feelings of sorrow.

The scene of the Tale of Genji, which Mr. Ichiraku Yamamoto and Mr. Zenshoh Yamaoka illustrated, appeals to our heart, evoking feelings of empathy for the characters in the story. One can almost sense the aroma of the flowers, the atmosphere of the palace, and so forth. You are certain to enjoy Japanese green tea with this remarkable teacup.



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- If it gets dirty, use tepid water or mild chlorine-free dish washing detergent.
- Wipe with a soft cloth if it gets wet.
- Do not rub with a scrub brush or polishing powder.
- After use, dry it out of direct sunlight and keep in a well-ventilated place.
- Do not sterilize by boiling, or in a dish washing machine.

Ichiraku Yamamoto

Ichiraku Yamamoto was born in Kyoto in 1958. He worked under the former Ichiraku for about 10 years. He succeeds the Ichiraku Kiln as the second generation in 1990. He creates highest grade Kyo Yaki porcelain like Yunomi teacups, table ware for Japanese sake, and so on. His traditional techniques receive high praise. Indeed he was officially designated as a traditional craftsman by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in 2010.
His specific style sustained by dynamic and vivid scraping techniques and elegant and rich underglaze cobalt blue techniques has achieved wide acclaim.


WAKAMURASAKI is the 5th of 54 stories in the Tale of Genji, and the name of the most important person in Hikaru Genji’s life. Their first encounter is portrayed in this story.
After Hikaru Genji became ill, he visited a monk for treatment in the northern part of Kyoto. He recovered enough to walk around, and passed by the temple living quarters. He caught a glimpse of its house and found a very beautiful girl. Her name was Murasaki no Ue. Hikaru Genji was fascinated by her beauty, and felt that her appearance was very similar to that of his mother. He asked a nun to welcome Murasaki no Ue as one of his wives. However, she declined his offer, because Murasaki no Ue was too young. When time passed and summer came, Murasaki no Ue's caretaker passed away, and she had no financial support. When Hikaru Genji heard that she would be adopted by another house, he promptly went to her, and brought her to his home, so that he could take care of her. After the death of Aoi no Ue, who was the first wife of Genji, Murasaki no Ue became a wife of Genji, and she was dedicated to him more than any other woman, throughout her life.

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.

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