ancient tea set

When we lived in Okinawa, my parents must have enjoyed the culture. Mom bought some beautiful housewares while there, which came with us to the States. One of the most precious to me is a coffee, tea and sake set that I can only guess is Japanese. It looks ancient to me, although I’m not sure how ancient it really is. Mom had it stored in some kitchen cabinets back home. I made sure to confiscate it and send it back home to Arizona before our old house sold. I’ve done research online to try and figure out if it has a pattern name, but to no avail. The set includes a teapot and several teacups, a sake set, including tiny little sake cups, a large punch bowl, a pitcher, coffee pot and coffee cups, a sugar jar and creamer, and candlestick holders. The porcelain is very thick and heavy, not thin like china. It’s almost an antiquish pale blue-green in color with soft charcoal colored bottoms and crackled appearance both on the outside and inside. There are also heart shaped inlays cut into each piece. I can’t imagine how they did that, and each piece has gold trimmings and a gold horse and/or butterfly on the outside and bottom inside. I think it’s absolutely beautiful and am so glad to have it in my possession.

This is pretty much the whole set, with the exception of a few other cups.

This is my favorite piece. I love the bamboo handle.

This is the very large punch bowl. Each piece in the set has the same gold horse adorned on the outside.

The bottom inside of the punch bowl has two horses

In addition to the gold horse, both the teapot and coffee pot have what looks like a butterfly sitting on a branch on the other side. I’m not sure if it’s a butterfly, but it kind of looks like it.

This is the inside of one of the small coffee cups.

This is the sake set. The little sake cups look much larger here than they really are.

Sugar Jar and Creamer

I have the set displayed in some of our kitchen cabinets with glass panels. However, the cabinets just don’t do it justice. One day, it would be nice to display it in a china cabinet, or something similar. Wish I knew where my mom bought the set and if there’s any background or significance to the horse and butterfly.

34 thoughts on “ancient tea set

  1. Dot Enockson

    Hi just picked up a 10 in x 4 inch bowl. Had only seen the punch bowl and a 10 in inch shallow bowl in the past. Just arrived yesterday. Can not wait to fill it with rice

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  2. Dot Enockson

    I love thi too! Started with pieces mom and Nonny brought back to South Dakota in the 60’s. More flea marketing,thrift stores antiquing in Hawaii , a piece from mr Sue in Japan and eBay.place settings (8) and many other pieces. Scored a10″x 4.5 bowl today. Happy hunting cooking and table setting!

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  3. Pingback: Somayaki ( Ōbori Sōma-yaki) or Soma Ware: Pottery from Japan | Market Tales Vintage Shop

  4. barb

    I must have over 50 pieces as well. Coffee pot, Tea pot, glasses, large coffee mugs. Has anyone found a value for these items?

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    1. Marijane Hsiao-ling Nguyen Post author

      Wow, sounds like you have an amazing collection. I don’t know the value of all of these items, but I’ve seen pieces sold on both eBay and Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/market/somayaki. I love my collection and wish that I had something that I could display it on. One day! Take care and thanks for stopping by. If you do find out anything regarding the value of Somayaki ware, please let me know! Best, Mj

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    1. Mj Post author

      Wow, what a great collection you have. I’d be curious, too, to find out what the value is for some of the pieces in this particular set. Thanks for visiting my blog!

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  5. D. Sage

    Hello, Several years ago my husband and I came across 3 cups of these and bought them as they are a Sage green and our last name is Sage. It was our anniversary and with the hearts it seemed perfect. It took us nearly 5 years to find out that the are Somayaki. Since that time we have slowly increased our set by shopping on ebay and sometimes at antique shops. Plates are the hardest to find. Mine are from the original pieces made. The new ones do not look the same. Your best bet is to watch etsy’s and ebay! Best of Luck and Blessings, Sage

    Pieces to watch for
    Punch bowl
    Wishing well
    Different size glasses
    Bowls

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    1. Marijane Nguyen, MT-BC Post author

      Thanks so much for stopping by! It also took me a long time to figure out that the ware I had was Somayaki. Now I’m so glad that I’ve been able to find where it came from. I will definitely keep an eye out on ebay and thanks for suggesting etsy as well. I’ve never tried searching on etsy. I don’t have any plates, just the cups, teapot, saki set and punch bowl. The punch bowl and teapot are my favorites! I think what I have might be original, too, as my parents got the items that I now have in Okinawa probably in the early 60’s. I think Somayaki is absolutely beautiful. Thanks again for the info!

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  6. Ruth

    Just want you to know I also have some of this pottery, given me by my daddy in about 1962. He was a Marine stationed in Japan and I was a young mom in the states. I’ve see pieces occaisionally on eBay and its generally called Soma Ware, or Somayaki. Hope this helps you. I’ve promised mine small set to my eldest granddaughter as part of her inheritance. I’d like to add to my collection if you decide to part with any.

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    1. Marijane Post author

      Hi Ruth! Thanks for the shout out about Soma Ware/Somayaki. I found a website awhile back that gave info on the pottery. Unfortunately, the factory where it was primarily made in Japan was near the nuclear plant that was destroyed during the earthquake/tsunami, and production of Somayaki is at a standstill: http://www.artisticnippon.com/product/somayaki/somapottery.html. I’m so grateful that I have the pottery and also hope to add to my collection. There’s also another website here where you may be able to purchase some pieces: http://www.zensuke.com/somayakiware.html. Maybe you’ve already seen these 2 websites. Thanks again for your comments and for stopping by! Happy New Year to you.

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  7. kaylee

    Unfortunately Teavana stopped carrying that line shortly after I got mine- maybe 3 or more years ago… but I look every so often online, and usually find something, somewhere. Masanori Sue, who is mentioned in your posting about Namie Village, above, traveled to Europe earlier this year as part of some effort to support the culture and craft of somayaki which has been threatened by the nuclear disaster.
    http://www.somayaki.eu/images/somayaki_A5.pdf
    I even found a Facebook page (Solidarity for Sômayaki) related to their struggles, and from it learned that Mr. Sue is back in Japan now, preparing for the “next stage”, whatever that may be.
    Thanks for providing attention to this beautiful and still viable art.

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  8. kaylee

    Unfortunately it may be decades before anyone is allowed to return to Namie, if ever. A tragic situation for the forgotten town…
    But that was just one kiln, albeit a long-lived one; there are supposedly 24 firms producing Obori Soma Ware in the Fukushima prefecture.
    I did see one site domestic site that had 3 styles of teapot available: http://www.zensuke.com/somayakiware.html
    I have a teapot and 4 cups- 2 of the cups are WWII vintage, the rest new, purchased a few years ago from, of all places, Teavana. I love the teapot, use it several times a day. Nice collection you have!

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    1. Marijane Post author

      Kaylee, thanks for visiting and for the information on the somaware. I can’t believe you were able to purchase some at Teavana. I’ll have to check out the Teavana near us! I will check out the website you mentioned here. Thank you!

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  9. Dot enockson

    I have many pieces of Somayaki also. Grandmother and aunt and mother bought it in Hawaii in the 60’s. I am still looking for dinner plates. Any leads? thanks Dot

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    1. Marijane Post author

      Hi Dot, Thanks for stopping by! I think it’s so interesting that you’re the 2nd person who’s contacted me about the Somayaki somaware and that you have some of the pieces as well! Here is a web link that I discovered after learning from another reading what the actual name of the pottery ware is:

      http://www.artisticnippon.com/product/somayaki/somapottery.html

      If you google Somayaki somaware, you’ll find other links and information about the ware. Good luck finding dinner plates, and if you find some, would you email me? Thanks! mjnguyen7@cox.net.

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    2. Marijane Post author

      After going to the site I sent you, I learned that the production of Somayaki somaware has been halted due to the tsunami that hit last year. It appears that the craftsmen who’d been making the pottery for years had to evacuate and be relocated:

      “Namie village, where the production of Somayaki is based, was doubly hit, both by the earthquake and by the accident at the neighboring Fukushima Dai ichi nuclear power plant. Being within a 20 km radius of the plant, all the villagers have been forcibly evacuated out of the area.
      We were deeply concerned about the whereabouts of the Sue family who produce Somayaki for our site and were very relieved to get word from them recently that they are safe. Having been on the move for weeks, they are now settled at an evacuation center in the Western part of Fukushima prefecture. However as their kiln was damaged by the quake, and as they have had no indication of when they can return to their hometown, we are unable to predict when Somayaki will be in production again.
      Artistic Nippon would like to offer its sincerest condolences to the Sue family and their fellow craftsmen in their current situation. It is our hope that the long and distinguished tradition of Somayaki will not be diminished by the tragedy and will emerge stronger than ever in the near future.”

      If you go to the link I sent previously, there’s more information. So sad! I hope they will be able to resume making the beautiful somaware soon if they have not already!!! Sincerely, MJ

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    3. Rose

      I have over 200 pieces of this lovely Japanese set that i will be selling. My plates are more of a salad size used for appetizers. Have tall mugs, small mugs, medium mugs, ashtrays, teapots, creamers, sugar bowls, coffee pot, ice bucket, all size mugs if you are trying to fill in a missing piece. my set was bought in Japan in 1959 and is in perfect condition. Might anyone interested write me at rosevictor@sbcglobal.net.

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  10. Emily

    Hi I have been looking for an answer for my tea set I was gifted 5 years ago by my husband… It’s like yours only minus the punch bowl, sake bottles, and cadle holders, I was told it was from WWII…or right before….have you found any more info? If u send me your email adress I can send pics

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    1. Emily

      Just found more info……the set is called Somayaki Soma ware…its from the late 1940’s after WW2 and most sets are hard to find and you have the largest set I have seen but when looking for info I found I can buy the missing pieces like dinner plates and those gorgeous sake bottles u have but no one has the punch bowl…..go nanna

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      1. Marijane Post author

        Thanks so much for passing along the information you found on the tea set! How did you come across it? Would love to order missing pieces as well. Could you send me the link or info??? Thank you so much, Emily for sharing!

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  11. Erica

    Hi, my name is Erica. I know this is a bit random but I was doing a Google search on a tea set that was given to me by my grandmother that had been given to her by her mother. It’s the same set as yours! I don’t have the complete set, just the tea service. My nana didn’t know anything about the set other than that she believed it was from Japan. If I am able to figure anything out about its origin I would be happy to let you know! It really is a small world!

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    1. Marijane Post author

      Erica, thanks so much for leaving a comment! What a small world indeed! What are the chances of finding someone else with the same exact tea set? Please do let me know if you find out any information. It would be really cool to know if there is some history behind the set! Take care!

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  12. kelley

    hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm sign it up for antiques roadshow! I love mysteries like this. Your blog is wonderful- the last one really got me….Keep on posting!

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