A sand-cast iron chagama (tea kettle), the flattened circular body modeled with a crisp angle around its point of greatest diameter, the neck of similar form but with a more rounded profile, with two handles in the form of curling plant stems cast with curvilinear striations; the cast-bronze lid fitted with a single-tier knop terminating in a foliate ornament. Comes with the original fitted wooden tomobako storage box inscribed Zahyōgama and signed and sealed Master kettle-maker Kakutani Shason
The chagama tea kettle plays a central role in chanoyu, the formalized tea-drinking event generally known outside Japan as the “tea ceremony.” The most important among the few metal (rather than ceramic, lacquer, or bamboo) vessels needed for chanoyu, the chagama is generally set over a small recessed charcoal fire placed in the ro (square hole in the tatami matting) during the colder months, while from May to October it is more customary to place it on the furo, a metal brazier that sits above the tatami. The chagama has no spout; instead, hot water is transferred from the kettle’s wide mouth to the teabowl with a bamboo ladle. When it is not in active use, the kettle’s mouth is closed by a futa (lid), usually of cast bronze and manufactured by a different specialist than the kettle itself, which is invariably made from cast iron.
The chagama occupies a special cultural space of its own, dependent on a sophisticated, rarefied aesthetic that is without parallel in other cultures; no effort is spared in the quest to imbue each kettle with an individual artistic significance that integrates elegant form, pleasing motifs, and subtle surface textures that only a sand mold can yield. The present example is in the zahyōgama form. Meaning literally “sitting gourd kettle,” the term refers to the vessel’s resemblance to a double gourd that has been deliberately flattened to give it the modest and unobtrusive profile considered desirable for all chagama since their styles and use were first codified in late-medieval times.
Kakutani Shason, the maker of this kettle, was born in the city of Osaka and trained with his father and elder brother from an early age. Like others of his generation he made it his life’s mission to exploit the surprising congruence between traditional Japanese forms and the clean lines and geometric profiles that came to characterize elite crafts around the globe from the 1950s onward. Starting in 1957, he exhibited regularly at the Nihon Dentō Kōgei Ten (Japan Traditional Crafts Exhibition as well as presenting his work locally at the Ōsaka Kōgeiten (Osaka Craft Exhibition).