Tale of Genji
UMEGAE (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 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, 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.

UMEGAE means plum tree branch in Japanese, and also is the title of music which was performed in this story. Hikaru Genji and his wife each made incense for their daughter’s celebration. He came up with the idea of the incense competition, and they asked their acquaintances to make incense, as well. The different types of incense were prepared from auspicious ingredients. The incenses were burned and the scents clung to the KIMONO Japanese traditional clothes. Each scent was so fragrant that it was difficult to decide which was superior. After the competition, Hikaru Genji held a party at night, and during this party, his nephew, who had a beautiful voice, sang a song named UMEGAE.

On this Matcha bowl, the scene of the scent competition is described. This competition is one of the traditional games which the nobility enjoyed in ancient times. Items used for the competition are arranged in the palace, and each of them are gracefully portrayed. The white color of KIMONO traditional cloth, which was perfumed by the aroma of the incense, is featured on the center of the bowl. The round shape of patterns colored in black, and a black box on which golden color is inlayed, are well reflected on the white cloth. Two jars which competitors prepared for the competition are colored in navy and white, and they are well contrasted with each other. Red plum and green pine branch, which are used for the decoration of the jar, add elegance not only to each jar but also to the Matcha bowl itself. Letters which Hikaru Genji wrote to express his thanks are decorated on the left side of the bowl, and his warmhearted hospitality adds to the warm atmosphere.

Inside the Matcha bowl, plum branches are decorated, along with a mountain and river. Plum is one of the flowers which Japanese people have cherished since the ancient times. Some flowers are in full bloom, and others are still in bud. The expression of the plum flowers reminds us not only of the expectation of the coming of spring but also of the vitality of flowers.

A tranquil time enjoyed by the nobility in the palace is well expressed on this Matcha bowl. Each item for the competition is elaborately decorated, and the color contrast is well matched with this bowl. If you prepare Matcha in this elegant bowl, you will certainly experience the tranquil atmosphere.



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Overview of UMEGAE

UMEGAE is the 32nd of 54 stories in the Tale of Genji.

AKASHI no HIMEGIMI, who is a daughter of Hikaru Genji, reached the age in which the coming-of-age ceremony was celebrated for noble girls. In order to celebrate her, Hikaru Genji made an incense with a secret recipe. Murasaki no Ue, who is a wife of Hikaru Genji also made one, secretly. When Hikaru Genji realized that his wife also had the same idea for celebration, he asked her to propose the competition to determine which incense has the most unique aroma. He also asked some acquaintances to make incense for the competition.
The competition was held in February. Five incenses were gathered at his palace, and each was burnt to perfume the KIMONO cloth. All of them were so superb that it was very difficult to decide which was superior. After the competition, a party was held at the palace, and Hikaru Genji’s nephew sang a song, named UMEGAE.

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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