21 August 2023

Fascinating Hanazume Gifts for Your Friends and Colleagues

Kutani ware is celebrated for its vibrant and intricate designs. Its distinctive colors, termed Kutani "Gosai" (five colors), comprising red, yellow, green, purple, and dark blue, lend the porcelain a textured and radiant finish.

This article delves into "Hanazume," a time-honored hand-painted floral method characteristic of Kutani ware, highlighting products that embrace this artistry. Whether you're drawn to exclusive hand-painted items or budget-friendly printed versions, there's a perfect piece for gifting.


  • The Exquisite Texture and Glare of Hand Painting
  • The Astonishing Technique of Transfer Printing
  • The Meticulous Care of Stamp Designing
  • Heart-Warming Flowers for Your Delight

The Exquisite Texture and Glare of Hand Painting

Hand-painted Kutani ware represents the pinnacle of this craft, being the most precious and rare. The number of these pieces is very limited due to the time-consuming process involved, and they are often sold out quickly. These hand-painted items captivate with their delicacy, evoking a heartwarming comfort upon sight. While the lines and curves may not have the machine-like precision, the natural variations in shade and the meticulous brush strokes are undoubtedly striking. The hanazume flower patterns, drawn by hand, stand out as extraordinary—testaments to the outstanding craftsmanship of artisans who have undergone rigorous training.

The number of craftsmen who can use the traditional "original color painting" technique is decreasing. With these thoughts in mind, Taishi Kiln creates daily with the basic principle of respecting the Kutani tradition and valuing the art of color painting.

Taishi Kiln's respect for tradition is also expressed in its designs. They specialize in typical Kutani ware techniques such as "Ao-Kutani" overglaze enameling, hanazume, and "Aochibu." Skilled artisans at the kiln conduct research on a daily basis to create tableware that is suitable for modern dining settings.

Unfortunately, Taishi Kiln's precious matcha bowls have sold out. However, the kiln offers other captivating hand-painted hanazume design cups. The set includes tea cups, a "Houhin" (a teapot without a handle), and a "Yuzamashi" (a water pitcher used to cool the tea). Such a set is ideal for high-quality green teas like "Gyokuro," which are best brewed at lower temperatures. This exquisite hand-painted tea ware is undeniably a top choice for those seeking a beautiful gift that captures the heritage and craft of Kutani ware.

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This one is from Mayama Kiln, one of the two kilns making hand painted hanazume designs of Kutani ware. Surely its delicate touch of vibrant colors of paint is a true wonder for the observer. A most precious gift for a special person, for display as fine art, or for use at tea ceremonies to impart its extravagant beauty with your tea ceremony attendees. Hand painted designs are the most heartful and gracious of gifts, certain to delight and touch the recipient's heart. 

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The Astonishing Technique of Transfer Printing

Traditionally, all Kutani ware pieces were hand-painted individually. These are still the most expensive and precious items within the Kutani ware range. However, due to increasing demand and efforts to familiarize more people with this heritage craft, Kutani ware developed unique and highly sophisticated transfer printing techniques to imitate hand painting.

"Tensha," or transfer printing, is an innovative technology famously devised by Seikou Kiln, a Kutani ware maker with over a century of history.

This technique uses special paper where traditional Kutani ware designs are printed, preserving the texture of hand painting. Hand-painted designs are vivid and exhibit uneven surfaces because of the multiple layers of colored paints. Seikou Kiln's printing technology is unparalleled in its sophistication and ability to replicate these qualities.

The result isn't merely "printing" colors on smooth paper. Instead, the plates display the uneven impressions from multiple layers, and the dye brilliantly captures the luster and shine characteristic of hand-painted pieces.

"Offering the unique elegance of Kutani ware at a price acceptable to the market," Seikou Kiln manages to produce high-quality items using their transfer paper. The transparency of the glassy glaze and the richness of the overglaze paint rival that of hand-painted workmanship. Their creations have earned numerous awards, including accolades from the Japan Tourism Agency's "Charming Japanese Souvenir Contest" and the "Gourmet & Dining Style Show."

Whereas the Hanazume designs are typically used for smaller tableware such as matcha bowls and cups, the convenience and efficiency of printing technology allow the design to be applied to larger tableware, such as this three-tiered bento box by Seikou Kiln. It would make a heartwarming and joyful gift for your friends, perfect for an indoor picnic or a home party.

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Other kilns that employ the print technique also offer a variety of products. This elegant coffee cup is adorned with the Hanazume style, printed on a black and white glazed surface. The Hanazume design serves as a casual accent of beauty, contrasting with the extravagant full-surface paintings. The cup's raised texture is comfortable and fits perfectly in the hand. These casual and affordable flower designs, achieved through printing techniques, make suitable gifts for lighter occasions.

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Introducing the exquisite "Ochoko" sake cups by Seiju Kiln, the epitome of elegance and traditional artistry. These cups dazzle with intricate floral designs printed with immense precision. Accented with genuine gold outlines, the cups are not just drinkware, but pieces of art. Perfect for any celebratory occasion, this set of five sake cups promises to elevate your home bar, adding a touch of sophistication to any gathering. Whether gifting to a sake connoisseur or enhancing your own collection, Seiju Kiln's creation, launched in May 2023, encapsulates wishes of happiness and tradition in each sip.

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The Meticulous Care of Stamp Designing

Other methods used in Hanazume design is the method of stamping. This requires the stamping of golden linings for each hand painted flowers. It is more expensive than transfer printings, but cheaper than the rare hand painted ones.

This matcha bowl employs the stamp technique. It is somewhat noticeable by the golden lines not perfectly aligned with the colored paintings. Nevertheless, the stamping is done by hand with care, and the stamps retain the bumpy layers of ink on the surface, reminiscent of hand painted surfaces. Still, it is a very charming match bowl, perhaps a more casual gift with a bit of surprise and entertainment. It is a beautiful Japanese gift of fine craft.

Heart-warming Flowers for Your Delight

Filled with colorful flowers all over the body with gold trimming, the Hanazume design has a timeless elegance. It will be an extraordinary gift for those who love Japanese traditional culture and Japanese tea. These charming flower designs will definitely give delight to your guests. And perhaps having one or two hand painted ones for yourself, will surely be something to treasure.

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