Successive generations of the Onishi family in the Kamanza area of Kyoto.
Four hundred year history and culture of Kettles for Cha no yu.
The Onishi family has been a part of the history of Kyoto and CHADO, the way of tea, since the first generation JORIN started to live in this area about 400 years ago.
Open 10:00−16:30 (admittance is till 16:00)
Closed Mondays(except National Holidays; instead, close the following day),
and new years holiday, and terms for changing displays.
Admission \800- adults,\600- students
Tea and sweets \500
Kamanza-cho Shinmachi Nishi-iru Sanjo-tori Nakagyo-ku Kyoto 604-8241 Japan
Access: 6minutes walk from subway Oike station No. 6 exit.
Phone:075(221)2881(domestic) 81 75 221 2881(over sea call)
Can you find a common characteristic in these Kyoto street names:Kamanza,Kiyamachi,takeyamachi?
These names come from the vocation of people living around these areas in Kyoto.
Sanjo-Kamanza, west of Sanjo-Karasuma,was an area of iron foundries.
Kamanza is written in 釜 and 座,meaning kettle and craft guild.
In the 15th century,Momoyama era, 72 castmen were living in that area. They had special rights to deal in iron crafts. They made pots and pans for daily use, gongs and lanterns for regious use, and utensils for tea ceremony.
Just two families are left owadays. One of them, the Onishi family, is still maiking kettles for tea ceremony.
It was 400 years ago that Mr.Onishi's ancestors begun to live in that area. At the location where the family has been living and working, Onishi Seiwemon museum was opened in November 1998. The Onishi family has counted 16 generations up to now. The 16 generation, Mr.Onishi Seiwemon, the director of the museum, says that his family was in danger of dying out several times. He wants to pass down the family's history and convey the interest of kettle making to people today.
You may have heard about the Sen family,the grand tea masters and descendants of Sen-no Rikyu, the founder of tea ceremony. There are ten families making utensils only for the tearoom. Some of them date back to Rikyu. They are known as the ten craft-families for the Sen family. Each family makes particular utensils from metal, clay, paper, fabric lacquer and bamboo. These families play a significant role in preservation of the history and technique of the traditional high quality. Japanese art and crafts.
Meantime they create new designs by themselves and by order of the tea masters. They still maintain a close relationship with the grand tea masters and each other. The Onishi family is one of these ten, working with metal and regarded as Kamashi, 釜師, the kettle makers.
It takes three months to make a kettle for the tearoom. Mr.Onishi puts hot iron of 1550℃, between ceramic molds for the inside and the outside. He engraves pictures or patterns on the outside molds. After cooling down, the kettle is removed from the molds, and heated again at 800℃, which makes the iron stronger. Looking at this process on the video at the museum I realized that I had never imaged how much hard physical work sustains a delicate moment in a tearoom.
For the most of tea gatherings the kettle stays in one place, on the fire. Beautiful tea bowls and the tea containers may attract your eyes by being moved, whereas the kettle has a significant role of its pure existence in quietness.
In tearoom it is good manners not to wear a watch. The only a clock in a tearoom is the kettle, which lets you know the best timing for a bowl of good tea. When the guests enter the tearoom, the kettle has cold water in it. So the host makes the water hot by adding some charcoal into the fire pit. The kettle, which is sitting still, begins to gush out steam and makes more and more noise. This sound is named Matsukaze, 松風, which means wind through pine trees. What a beautiful poetic name for the sound of boiling water!
The sound changes gently when the host takes hot water adds cold water. You will forget your daily busy life in this sensitive moment of tranquility. Mr.Onishi makes kettles for this very moment.
Moreover the kettle's important role is to provide good water for tea. Being used for a long time, iron gets a film of water inside, which will neutralize the water adding acid or alkali. When you see good change of color inside, you will know that the tea will be tasty made from this kettle.
Also the outside color changes naturally. Because of the passing of time and because of the good care by its owners, kettle look very colorful. Like people, kettles get old in various ways. Mr.Onishi makes not only new kettles but also repairs old kettles. He says that it is possible to make tea with kettle hundred of years old.
The museum helps us to understand the whole process of the work on a kettle, with videos and displayed kettles made by Onishi Seiwemon, from former generations until now. Along with this, the museum offers a bowl of green tea and sweets. The museum plans seasonal exhibitions and events such as special night opening (till 9:00) during Gion Matsuri festival, 14-16 and 24th july.
The museum also provide special gathering reqularly to introduce kettles. At this event you can talk to Mr.Onishi in person. And you can touch kettles, which will be displayed in the showcase. Though you must wear gloves, it is quiet impressive looking at a several hundreds of year old kettles very close. Please ask the museum about details.
Translated by M. Yoshioka
Japanese metal work from ancient times to the Medieaval Age developed mainly as one of the fields of Buddhist art. With the fall of aristcracy in the Early Modern Age (16th-19th centuries), Buddhist temples earlier partronized by particians lost their financial support, and their religious activities were also restrained due to suppression on Buddhism by warlords. The Early Modern Age, theirfore, did not turn out mentionable metal work objects for Buddhist religious purposes. On the other hand, the rise of the commoners' class in the society caused flourishing activity of the art connected directly with every day life, resulting in extensive manufacture of tea-ceremony kettles, standing lanterns, blonze mirrors, stationery pieces, architectual fittings, etc. The leaders of the new age who rose from the newly risen stocks discarded the intelligent, sensitive mode of life which had been enjoyed by the nobility and chose to pursue the joys of practical life. This attitude of life led people to be in favor of gold, which was the symbol of power and which appealed strongly to them with its beautiful gleam.
Just at the time the gold mines at Kurokawa in Kai Province (the present Yamanashi Prefecture), at Fuji and Umegashima in Suruga Province (Shizuoka), and, the biggest of all, the one at Sado in Echigo Province (Niigata), were opened. It was a Golden Age in the literal sense of the word. It was in this period that kimpeki shohei-ga (colorful paintings on gold leafed panels of walls, sliding-doors, folding-screens, etc.) in the field of painting, nui-haku (embroidery and gold-leaf imprint) in textile art, and maki-e (gold-lacquer) in lacquer art, became fashionable as never before, and tea-ceremony objects and sword mountings of gold began to be made. Esteem of sensuous appeal also caused people to love polychromy. In the field of metalwork, inlay of gold and silver on iron or brass ground, and shippo (cloisonne or champleve) in which enamels of red, white, blue, green and other colors were fused on a copper ground, came into wide faver.
In contrast with this aesthetic sense in faver of brilliant beauty, the wabi-cha (wabi-style tea-ceremony) created a new realm in which wabi and sabi* were held as the most elevated ideals of beauty. (*Wabi and sabi: It is hard to translate these terms, but they may be roughly understood to mean soberness, quietude, simplicity, absence of ornament, naiveness,etc.--Translator.) Great tea masters such as Rikyu, Oribe, Enshu and Yoken had kettle casters working for them respectively, whom they instructed to cast tea-ceremony kettles of iron instead of gold. Iron tea-ceremony kettles had earlier been manufactured mainly at Ashiya in Chikuzen Province (Fukuoka Prefecture) and at Temmyo in Shimotsuke Province (Tochigi Prefecture), but after the end of the Muromachi Period (early 14th-middle 16th century) they began to be cast also in Kyoto. During the Momoyama Period (middle 16th-early 17th centuries) the kama-za (guild of kettle factories) was established at Sanjo, where Kyo-gama (Kyoto kettles) were cast in quantities.
According to documentary evidences there were at the time as many as seventy-two kettles factories at the Sanjo Kama-za. Though called kama-shi (kettle casters), the casters did not limit their jobs to tea-ceremony kettle exclusively. The kyo-habutae published in 1685, in an article listing shops and stores along the Sanjo Street, contains the following statement: "Casters. Making pans, bath furnaces, temple bells, etc." It proves that they were engaged in casting kichen utencils, temple bells, lanterns, and other sundry iron goods. Out of them appeared such eminent tea-ceremony kettle makers as Nishimura Dojin, Nagoshi Yoshimasa, Tsuji Yojiro and Onishi Seiwemon to add to the fame of Kyo-gama.
Manufacture of bronze mirrors, though now included in the category of metal casting, was in those times a speciality of craftsman called kagami-shi (mirror makers). They organized the kagami-za (guild of mirror casters) at approximately the same time as the kama-za. The Ao family was the head of the guild. Mirrors of the Early Modern Age were chiefly e-kagami (mirrors with handles). The knob, which used to be at the center of the mirror back, disappeared, and mirror back ornaments, earlier designed centering around the knob, were replaced by free-style ones composed of oversized flowering plants, birds, human figures and other motives in unrestricted arrangement. The mirror faces themselves tended to be increasingly larger.
Translation by Shigetaka Kaneko