In any Japanese household or restaurant, you will find a wide selection of dishware. Unlike western kitchens, where we are used to have a few different size of plates, bowls, and cups, Japanese kitchens are full of different kinds of dishware, each made for a specific use. The importance and craft behind each piece tell a story about the history of food, drink, and culinary tradition in Japan.
1. Donburi (bowl)
Donburi, literally “bowl” in Japanese, can come in different sizes, colors, and designs. Common donburi patterns such as Seigaiha, meaning “blue ocean waves”, are a symbol of happiness and peace. Made in Japan, donburi can be used to plate steamed rice, katsu don, yakitori-don, poke, miso soup, or noodles, such as udon and soba.
While the name of the bowl is called donburi-bachi (丼鉢), the name of the dish served inside is called donburi-mono (丼物). Donburi-bachi comes in a variety of different sizes. Mini donburi, typically around 3-4 inches, is the smallest donburi variation, making it a great option for kids or small soups and side dishes. Meanwhile, the standard donburi size is around 5.9 inches, perfect for a single main course, such as rice with vegetables. Donburi bowls that exceed 5.9 inches are considered extra large.
Donburi bowls are designed to have a wider, more shallow design than the traditional Western soup bowl. This creates the perfect receptacle to plate rice on the bottom with vegetables and meat on the top and sides in an aesthetically pleasing presentation. This also makes it easy to make sure that the sauce reaches all elements of the dish.
Ceramic is the most common material for traditional donburi bowls. However, today, donburi bowls can be made from a variety of materials, most commonly urethane or lacquer, making them microwave safe.
Pouring a cup of sake is a classic Japanese tradition that is meant to show honor and respect to your guests; this act is called Shaku Suru or Kumu. In Japan, drinking sake is connected with celebrations and weddings, which is why it is common to find a variety of creative and elegant sake sets. The Tokurri penguin shape is a great way to serve your sake in style for your guests. This interesting shape also gives you the option of stacking the sake cups on top like a hat, saving space on your shelves and avoiding dust from accumulating inside.
Over the centuries, Japanese craftsmen from different regions have developed many different versions of the sake cup. Today, many different styles remain their use depending on the setting and preference of the guest. Here are three of the most common styles.
Masu Sake cup
Masu, a word sometimes used as “square” in Japanese, refers to one of the most ancient sake cup styles, which takes the form of a wooden square. The design was originally used for measuring rice but eventually evolved to be used in sake culture. These cups are traditionally made from cedar or hinoki due to their antibacterial properties.
It is also common for tall and narrow sake glass to be served inside the wooden masu cup. Sake may be filled up to the brim and spill over into the wooden masu cup to be consumed afterward.
This sake cup set is a classic glass style with an open lip and delicate transparent design with a masu cup made from Japanese Cypress. The lightly colored petals depict those that float on the surface of the Gojo River. This can be a perfect gift for someone special, as well as a durable glass set for everyday use.
Another popular sake cup design is the Guinomi cup, offering a shorter format with a wider mouth and more organic shape. The fine gold leaf detail is perfect for impressing your guests or clients. This cup comes in five unique designs, each of which draws inspiration from nature.
Traditionally, Guinomi cups are around 6 cm in diameter and hold around 1.4 oz.
The Ochoko glass is perhaps the most standard sake cup style and can be found in various shapes and sizes. These glasses are generally shorter and provide an ideal shape for sake connoisseurs who enjoy examining the qualities of their sake.
Ochoko cups have an average height of 4.8 cm and a diameter of 5.1 cm, holding about 2.4 oz.
This particular Ochoko glass is designed in the cobblestone style with a unique interior and exterior finish.
3. Tsukidashizara (Light-Weight Square Dish)
Known in Japanese as Tsukidashizara, this appetizer plate is mostly used for sushi and sashimi presentation. Its long square shape provides a graceful display for any appetizer, making it perfect for dinner parties and formal events. One of the perks of this versatile plate is its relatively lightweight in comparison to other traditional western kitchenware.
In addition to tsukidashi plates, Japanese plates are generally used for various purposes depending on their size.
Ozara (大皿) are large, shallow dishes/plates used as serving platters for several people or main dishes. They are generally larger than 21 cm in diameter and can go all the way up to 30 cm. Larger Ozara plates are used as serving platters for big parties while smaller versions are used to serve individual servings of main courses, such as noodles, curries, and meat.
Chuzara (中皿) are medium-sized plates/dishes. The design is in between a shallow bowl and a large plate, with diameters ranging from 18-21 cm. This is a very versatile dish that can either be used to serve side dishes or as an individual plate.
Kozara (小皿) are small, shallow plates perfect for side dishes, snacks, and even desserts. These can be found in sizes ranging from 12-15 cm in diameter, and are used for pickled dishes, small appetizers, and sweets.
To learn more about these different types of plates and what they are used for, visit this article.
4. Donabe (Clay pot)
The history of Japanese earthenware, or Doki, started in the Yayoi period (~300 BC). Today, this traditional clay cookware is known as Donabe and is commonly found as a staple in Japanese restaurants and households. The dark, matte finish is produced by an iron-based glaze that is applied once the clay pot has finished cooking in the kiln. The most common use for the clay pot is for cooking and serving rice, however, it can also be used to serve soups or stews. The main advantage of the Donabe is that you can cook and serve the food in the same dish. Many claim that cooking food in a Donabe gives it more umami flavor.
Donabe pots come in a variety of sizes for different meals and group sizes. In general, when choosing a donabe size, consider that each person or guest needs about 500ml.
Large donabe can hold up to 5 cups, an adequate size hotpot for four people, or big enough to make rice for up to 8 people.
For 3-5 people, medium-sized donabes are ideal, providing a 3-cup volume, which can be enough to cook rice for up to 5 people. You can also use your mid-size donabe to steam greens, and vegetables, or even to slow cook stews.
However, for smaller households of 1-2 people, a small donabe should be enough for all of your needs. Smaller 2-cup models can even make enough rice for up to four people, which can come in handy when you have guests over for dinner. These are great for serving stews and small hotpots as well.
5. Bento box
Originating in the 5th century, Bento is the original Japanese version of a lunchbox. The very first bento boxes were made from wood and considered to be luxury items, but later evolved to be produced out of aluminum in the 19th century during war times. The bento design provides several sections which can be used to store different types of food, i.e., rice, meat, vegetables, etc. Today, many restaurants serve combo-style meals that come in bentos, using each section of the box for a different food type.
Kyara-ben is a special method of organizing your bento box especially popular for children. Traditional bento box ingredients are used to recreate characters, such as animals, or your children’s favorite cartoon heroes. Rice, vegetables, and meat are all carved and shaped to form a variety of characters for children to find in their lunch boxes.
This creative food art is a big part of Japanese culture and stems from parents’ attempts to get their kids excited about eating their lunch, especially food that they might not regularly like, such as greens and vegetables.
Kyara-ben has become so nationally recognized in Japan that you can find these character foods in certain stores, with nationwide contests being held for the most impressive designs.
To learn more about bento boxes and bento box culture in Japan, visit the article below!
Bento Box: 9 Features of Japan’s Favorite Lunchbox
With so many different unique types of kitchenware, these are the perfect items to bring life and personality to any kitchen. Your customers will surely be delighted by the craftsmanship of this ancient Japanese tradition. To access our full catalogue of kitchenware, dishware, and other authentic Japanese items, sign up to become a member of SUPER DELIVERY. Browse our collection to find the items that will wow your clients and keep them coming back for more. Click here to become a member today!