Sasaki Kyoshitsu has inherited the techniques and the spirit imbued in raku tea bowls that have been created since the time of Sen Rikyu at this kiln that has continued for some 110 years. Unlike other pottery, which has developed into a production industry, raku-yaki employs techniques developed expressly for the purpose of “expressing the ways of the Sen no Rikyu tea ceremony”. Raku tea bowls embody Rikyu’s Zen spirit; passing on raku-yaki to future generations is not just about continuing on the techniques involved in its creation, but about handing down the spirit of wabisabi. Great importance has been placed on the handing down of this spirit together with raku-yaki techniques, and raku-yaki is disseminated both domestically and abroad.
It is said that the beginning of raku tea bowls lies in the juraku-yaki created by tile craftsmen under the guidance of Sen no Rikyu. They were attributed this name owing to the fact that the clay used in their creation was excavated during the construction of Jurakudai, Toyotomi Ieyasu’s residence and government office.
A potter’s wheel is not used; each piece is fashioned in the palms of the artisan, shaped using a method known as “te-zukune”, which lends them strength and a distinctive texture. Being created by hand, they are of course not completely symmetrical; this itself is a display of “the paucity of beauty”.
Raku-yaki glazes are made of stone from the Kamo River and Kibune. Artisans imbue pieces with their own unique aura through the surface texture of the piece and the way it is fired. By firing the surface only at the extreme temperature of 1200°, the inside is half-baked and thermal conductivity is reduced, ensuring a tea bowl with a composition that helps to keep tea hot. These pieces are brimming with techniques that aim for the best way to enjoy tea.
The te-zukune method involves creating shapes one by one in the palms of the hands from a lump of clay. This method results in the creation of tea bowls that just fit in the palms of the hands, and was developed by Sen no Rikyu.
Glaze is applied and dried in the sun; this is repeated 4 – 5 times, and removes any moisture in the clay. Doing this results in clay that does not crack even when fired at extremely high temperatures.
Glazes made from stone from the Kamo River and Kibune are melted at 1200°in high-quality charcoal fires, then removed before the pieces are fully fired. Doing this ensures the creation of tea bowls with low thermal conductivity that keep tea hot.