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Authentic Japanese Tableware: A unique serving style

When it comes to Japanese tableware, there is more to take in than you might first think. Japanese food is very closely linked to Japanese culture, with specific rules and practices of how things should be done firmly in place. The way in which Japanese food is eaten and the tableware that it used to do so has some very distinct differences to traditional Western tableware. There are many different aspects of Japanese tableware, with each one having its own purpose and history. Let’s take a look at what makes traditional Japanese tableware so unique.

A Western Comparison

Compared to Western table settings, Japanese tableware holds many similarities as well as differences. Both forms largely rely on a number of pieces tableware, each serving a different purpose, though the two styles differ in the focus of these purposes. Where Japanese tableware focuses more on the dishes the food is served, the tableware used in Western cultures is more focused on the variety of cutlery at a place setting. A traditional Japanese place setting can include over 10 different components. A variety of bowls, dishes, plates, strainers and cups, as well as chopsticks are traditionally used when dining in Japan. Although each vessel has a specific purpose, cutlery, however, does not – a contradiction to Western culture where cutlery is an important aspect of a meal. Japanese tableware also varies from Western culture in the form of how the food is eaten. Traditionally in Japan, food is served individually in small dishes to each person and is not often shared from one large central dish, whereas Western cultures frequently dine in this way with many people taking their food from the same dish at the table. Japan believes in individual dining experiences and enjoying food solely for oneself.

The history of Japanese tableware

The history of Japanese tableware dates back to the Jomon era (10,000 B.C. – 300 B.C.) and the Yayoi period (300 B.C. – A.D. 300). During this time, Japanese tableware was crafted from clay that had been fired on the ground without cover – instead of using a traditional kiln – at temperatures of around 700-900℃. At first, many earthen vessels in Japanese tableware had rounded bottoms and pointed tips so that they could be used for cooking on a fireplace, however, with time these pieces of Japanese tableware evolved and flat bottoms became more common as the vessels grew richer in variety. As this type of Japanese tableware became more popular, so did their decorative nature; the dishes soon became more refined through elaborate and artistic design. As time passed, new materials and techniques were introduced to the Japanese tableware making experience. Characteristics of both earthenware and porcelain were introduced with influences from Korean and Chinese pottery. During the 1600s, the traditional Japanese tea ceremony was in fashion, leading to the production of earthenware and stoneware in quintessentially Japanese designs. As traditional Japanese pottery grew and changed, so did the increase in exports to the wide-scale European market. 


Traditional Japanese tableware tended to be earthenware made from clay, whereas modern Western tableware is made from porcelain, a mix of powdered stone and clay. The reason for the difference in materials is down to the use and purpose of Japanese tableware dishes. When eating, Japanese dishes are held during the meal and are carried to the mouth, so it is important that the materials are pleasant, warm and light to suit and enhance the dining experience.
Shape and size
Japanese tableware is traditionally smaller, lighter and easier to hold compared to Western pieces. Bowls and other common pieces are crafted to suit the dish being consumed and the cutlery used. For example, taller and deeper dishes are designed to better suit the use of chopsticks.
Traditionally, most Japanese tableware and food vessels had no need to be uniform in shape or size. With so many different plates and dishes featuring in homes and restaurants, and each with a different purpose, it was not unusual for the pieces to vary in design, shape or size. In most families, each member has their own personal collection of Japanese tableware and will use a specific rice bowl and chopsticks.
There are many practices to look at when it comes to eating food in Japan, each with their own purpose and history. In the majority of dining experiences, each dish is served on an ‘ozen’, a four-legged tray which is used not only for carrying food but also as a dining table for a single person. This Japanese tableware custom is seen as an example of ‘omotenashi’, the act of making each individual feel special.
At Atelier Japan, our collection of Japanese tableware, drinking vessels and traditional earthenware is designed to give your dining experience a truly authentic feel. Browse the collection to experience our exquisite range of handcrafted tableware in your own home.

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Matsuri Festivals: All there is to know about Japanese New Year

The Japanese New Year is far from shy when it comes to its celebrations. From food to fukubukuro, mochi to money, there are lots of traditions, celebrations and cultural practices that take place to welcome in the Japanese New Year. Japanese New Year is referred to as ‘Shōgatsu’ or ‘Oshōgatsu’ in Japan and is celebrated from December 31st until January 4th to give time for everyone to partake in the full variety of celebrations.

Osechi Ryori

As with lots of traditional Japanese festivals and celebrations, food is adapted and made to play a large role in the Japanese New Year celebrations. The food eaten during the New Year is referred to as ‘Osechi Ryori’. Traditionally, the food that is eaten is prepared similarly to that of a bento box. The Osechi Ryori is packed in 2-3 layers of lacquer boxes with many dishes lying in each layer. The multi-tiered nature of the boxes is meant to symbolise the hope that happiness and wealth will come continuously after the Japanese New Year, just like the layers of lacquerware. During the Japanese New Year, a wide selection of dishes are enjoyed during the celebrations that incorporate a variety of sweet, sour and dried foods. This choice of food is representative of past culinary Japanese traditions before households had refrigerators and when stores were closed for the holidays. The type of food showcased over the Japanese New Year differs from region to region, with each place having their own variations on traditional dishes and ingredients. The most traditional dishes to be eaten through the Japanese New Year include soup with mochi rice cake and sushi.


One of the most interesting Japanese New Year traditions is the handing of money in an envelope to children, a tradition known as ‘Otoshidama’. During this tradition, money is given to the children in small decorative envelopes called ‘pochibukuro’. The amount of money that is given depends on the age of the child, though it is usually kept the same to remain fair if there is more than one child, with the value often being around ¥5,000, approximately £35. During the Edo period, large stores and wealthy families celebrated the Japanese New Year by giving out small bags of mochi and mandarin oranges to locals to help spread happiness during the New Year celebrations.


Throughout the Japanese New Year, there are many sources of entertainment to participate in. Games like kite flying, spinning tops and karuta (a card game introduced to Japan by Portuguese traders during the mid 16th century) are customary Japanese New year games. Another form of entertainment takes place on New Years Day when the final of the Emperor’s Cup takes place in the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo; a tradition which has taken place on New Years Day since 1969. Similarly to Western culture, there are also a lot of television shows created as end-of-year and beginning-of-year specials for people to enjoy with their families at home.


Koshōgatsu, or ‘the Little New Year’, is when the people of Japan celebrate the first full moon of the Japanese New Year, usually on the 15th day of the first lunar month. The main events of the Little New Year are the practices of praying for a bountiful harvest where rice gruel and adzuki beans are eaten. The involvement of eating rice is part of the rice gruel divination ceremony, a prediction of the year’s harvest based upon the number of grains that adhere to a stick. The Little New Year is also when the Japanese New Year decorations are taken down as the celebrations come to an end.


Hatsumode is one of the more traditional Japanese New Year customs, it is the first shrine visit of the New Year. Many people visit a shrine on either the 1st, 2nd or 3rd of January in order to pay their respects and wish for a happy and healthy New Year. Hatsumode is a family event with many choosing to visit the shrines together. Another cultural tradition of the Japanese New Year is bell ringing. On New Year’s Eve, Buddhist temples all across Japan ring their bells 108 times to symbolise the 108 human sins in Buddhist belief. Many Japanese people believe that the ringing of the bells can rid them of their sins from the previous year.
At Atelier Japan, we showcase the Japanese culture through our beautiful collection of Japanese fans, tea, pottery and jewellery, which all make the perfect addition to any celebration. Browse our collection to find something to help you celebrate Japanese New Year wherever you are.

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A Taste Of Japan: What sets Japanese food apart from the rest of the culture plate?

Japanese food is something that has burst into modern-day dining, but to what extent do we know of its origin, traditions and culture? Japanese food has seen an array of changes over hundreds of years, with adaptations and takes on traditional cuisine storming our Western culture. Japanese food as we know it today encompasses the regionality and traditionality of the Japanese food that has been developed through centuries of social and economic changes. Let’s take a look at what sets Japan and its unique cuisine apart from the rest of the culture plate.

Traditional Foods of Japan

When it comes to Japanese food, there are more than likely plenty of ingredients and dishes that you are already familiar with. Rice is one of the most popular ingredients of Japanese food and is a traditional staple of the Japanese diet that is most commonly seen in dishes such as sushi. Sushi and sashimi are both highly popular dishes in Japan, with seafood often featuring as an ingredient in their cuisine. Aside from rice, other staple Japanese ingredients include noodles, such as soba and udon. Traditional Japanese side dishes consist of fish, pickled and fried vegetables, and vegetables cooked in broth. Japanese food is based on combining the staple food, that is rice, with one or several main or side dishes. Often, this is then accompanied by a clear or miso soup and pickles.

Modern Depictions of Japanese Food

There have been a vast array of traditional Japanese foods that made their way into our western culture. As Japanese food becomes more and more popular in the modern world, and more readily available, we are beginning to see new adaptations of traditional dishes. Dishes inspired by other cultures, such as Chinese cuisine, have led to the popular Japanese foods that we all know and love today, such as ramen, fried dumplings and gyoza. Today, you can find a vast number of Japanese supermarkets and restaurants throughout UK cities, where there is a whole world of Japanese food both new and traditional to be discovered.

The Seasonality of Japanese Food

There is a lot of emphasis placed on the seasonality of Japanese food, with the seasons in Japan being incredibly poetic due to their distinct nature. Japanese dishes are designed to herald the arrival of the four seasons or calendar months. The seasonality of Japanese food means to take advantage of the ‘fruit of the mountains’ – for example, bamboo shoots in Spring and chestnuts in Autumn – as well as the ‘fruit of the sea’ as each comes into season. Seasonal foods are motifs of the depicting season and are meant to be enjoyed by all of the senses both aesthetically and through taste to truly emphasise the importance of the seasons in Japanese cooking.

Cooking Techniques

There are a vast array of Japanese cooking techniques, with some of the most traditional being grilling, steaming, deep-frying and, of course, sushi rolling. The cooking technique that is used highly depends on the type of Japanese food that is being cooked or prepared. For each side dish that accompanies rice, a different cooking technique is used. Aside from the main techniques, there is an extensive list of Japanese cooking techniques that are used to make the beautiful cuisine appreciated and enjoyed today. Whether it’s stir-frying or steaming, pickling or pan-frying, each technique is used to make the most of the flavours of each unique ingredient.

Serving of Food

Japanese food is served in very precise ways. Rice is served in its own bowl with each accompanying course or side dish placed on its own small plate or bowl for each individual portion. This serving style is quite contradictive of Western culture where individuals often take helpings from large serving dishes. Japanese food doesn’t allow for different flavoured dishes to touch each other on a single plate, which is why each dish is given its own plate or, alternatively, is partitioned using leaves. To place main dishes on top of rice is frowned upon in traditional etiquette as it is seen as soiling the rice.
Other traditional ways of serving Japanese food include the use of Bento Boxes; a single portion take-out or home-packed meal that is very common in Japanese cuisine. A traditional Bento holds a combination of rice or noodles, fish or meat and pickled and cooked vegetables, all intricately packed into a box. Bento boxes are highly common within Japanese culture and are carefully prepared, usually for one’s self, spouse or child.
Japanese food encapsulates the country’s true heritage, culture and the adaptations it has made through the generations. At Atelier Japan, we have a range of plates, bowls and cutlery rests designed to heighten your Japanese dining experience, view our exquisite collection to explore handcrafted pottery that is perfect for serving traditional Japanese food in your own home.

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True Sake: What makes a good sake and how is it drunk?

Sake has become increasingly popular throughout the generations since it was first made, but there’s more to this alcoholic fermented rice drink than you might first think. In Japan ‘sake’ is a more general term. The word ‘sake’ is used to refer to all alcoholic drinks, no matter what they’re made from. If you’re looking to refer to the drink in Japanese, try ‘Nihonshu’. It is highly debated where the drink originated from and when, but in early literature – 713 AD – a book mentions an alcoholic beverage that is made from rice which is considered to be the basis for the sake that we drink and enjoy today. Today, the popular Japanese alcoholic beverage has become popular all over the world. More and more of us are enjoying the unique and inimitable taste of sake, with its authentic flavours being truly celebrated on October 1st, the official Sake Day.

How is sake made?

The production of sake can be quite intricate and complex. Sake is believed to have spread throughout Japan during the Nara period, a journey which has resulted in the sake as we know today. The process consists of several stages which all require a high level of skill and artistry that has been handed down through generations.
The rice used to create this traditional Japanese drink is used for brewing purposes only due to the grain being larger, stronger and containing fewer proteins and lipids than other traditional kinds of rice. This more unusual rice contains a starch component in the centre of the grain that is essential for making sake. In order to collect this starch, the rice is passed through a ’polishing’ process where the outer bran is removed, this is to ensure that any ashes and foreign minerals are removed to give a cleaner, more fragrant brew.
After each and every grain of rice has been polished, it is left for around two weeks to cool and absorb some much-needed moisture back from the atmosphere. After the rice has rested, it is washed to remove any dust, and then soaked again to make sure the rice reaches an ideal water content of 30%. The rice is then steamed, though this stage requires extra care. To help make sure that everything goes to plan during the fermentation process, it’s important that the rice isn’t overcooked during the steaming. Once cooled, the rice is taken to the brewery, where starch is converted into sugars ready for fermentation.
In order to allow the special sake mix to ferment, a microorganism spore is sprinkled onto the steamed rice mixture to help marry and bring together all of the intricate flavours. After the fermentation period has ended, a mixture of water and yeast is added to the solution which is then incubated for around 7 days, though the process doesn’t end there. As the mixture ferments and comes together, another pre-incubated mixture of steamed rice, fermented rice and water is added to the mix in three stages to bring the sake up to the highest of quality standards. This last mixture is then left to ferment for another 2-3 weeks to bring the final flavours and fragrances together.
The last stages of the process are focused on ensuring the sake’s exquisite flavour. To do this, the fermented sake mixture is filtered through charcoal, removing any colour or displeasing flavours through a process of pressing and separating the liquid from the rice. Eventually, the sake can go through its last stages, including the pasteurisation, storing, diluting and bottling. Master Brewers take the last maturation stages as an opportunity to fine tune their product. Shortening and lengthening the maturation allows for the perfection of their product by altering things such as the taste, fragrance and character.

How should sake be enjoyed?

When it comes to drinking sake, the process can seem quite complex. An abundance of cups, glasses and bottles accompanied by a variety of tastes, serving sizes and temperatures can appear confusing, but the traditional Japanese drink can be enjoyed however you like. The process of enjoying sake is quite an individual one. There are serving suggestions and recommendations but the serving style that you choose each time will all depend on personal preference. You can drink sake hot or cold, in a cup or from a bottle, paired with food or without; there are endless ways to enjoy the beautiful flavour of this unique, traditional drink.
When it comes to sake customs, however, there is an etiquette that some choose to adopt. In Japan, it is considered good manners to pour a sake serving for your partner, with the youngest at the table usually pouring for the oldest. If someone is pouring sake for you, it is also a custom to hold your cup with one hand and put the other underneath before taking a sip.
At Atelier Japan, we believe that Japanese delicacies such as sake should be enjoyed to the finest of standards. View our collection online to browse our exquisite range of sake cups and bottles that will allow you to enjoy the rich and aromatic taste of one of Japan’s finest drinks.

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History Of The Hand Fan: The Japanese edition

The history of the Japanese hand fan is a beautiful and cultural piece of the past. The hand fan is a huge part of both Japanese culture and design, with its unique evolution and use of exquisite materials, there is a lot to learn about how far the hand fan has come. Let’s take a trip into the past to find out more about the colourful history of the hand fan.

The many shapes and styles of hand fan

Originally used by Samurai and Japanese aristocrats, the Japanese hand fan had a variety of uses. Fans were regularly used as a means of communicating, a symbol of status and also as a weapon. The first origins of the hand fan were in the style of a court fan and were referred to as ‘Akomeogi’ after the court women’s dress named ‘Akome’. Since then, the hand fan has had many adaptations but the most traditional and popular hand fans are the Uchiwa fan, the Sensu fan and the War fan.
Although the Uchiwa fan is a type of Japanese hand fan, it is thought to have originated from China. The form of this fan is flat and rigid and is traditionally used as a fan or for interior and decorative purposes. The Uchiwa fan has a small circular frame consisting of sliced bamboo and is complemented by stretched silk or washi paper that incorporates beautiful and intricate Japanese designs.
The Sensu fan is the most traditional form of Japanese hand fan. Although this fan has a basic shape and structure, there are many variations of its style including the Court fan, Chasen fan and Maiougi fan which are all made from a variety of materials and hold different meanings.
Interestingly, fans were traditionally used in Japan for warfare as both a signalling device and a weapon. War fans took on a similar structure to the more commonly recognised traditional fans with the exception of a metal covering and outer spokes for durability and use as a weapon.

The origin of the hand fan

The Japanese hand fan is said to have been invented somewhere between the 6th and 9th century. The earliest visual depiction of the hand fan was actually found in ancient Japanese burial tombs from the 6th century whilst the earliest literary references to hand fans came a little later in the 10th century.
Japanese fans became so popular after the 11th century that laws were passed to restrict the decorations used on the paper of the fans. Laws were also put in place that stated the number of strips of wood on each fan should reflect the rank and or status of the owner. By the 15th century, Japan began to export their fans to China and across Europe, through trade and the silk road. The hand fan showed its true popularity by the 18th and 19th century where many European women from a variety of social classes carried a folding fan with them in their day to day life.

Modern-day hand fan makers

Modern-day hand fans take on a much more simplistic use than they have done in the centuries gone by. Used either as a way to keep cool or for decorative purposes, the hand fan has changed vastly in terms of purpose since its creation. Fans that made their way out of Japan and into the modern day market did so as a result of political and economic changes which led Japanese craftsmen to begin tailoring their skills and goods to meet demand in Western markets.
Today, Japanese fans are still as popular and desirable as they were thousands of years ago. They are now often displayed as works of art in homes, businesses and traditional temples and also make unique and individual gifts for those interested in Japanese culture and design. With so many materials and processes used when making hand fans, there really is something to suit everyone.
At Atelier Japan, we believe in making the most of the finest of Japanese products and heightening the Japanese experience for customers, that’s why we work with one of the oldest traditional fan makers in Japan, Komaruya, who continue to lead the industry with their pieces that showcase incredible quality, technique and beauty. Go online to view our range of Japanese products, from fans to fine jewellery, sake bottles to silverware, we have a piece of Japanese culture for everyone.