Satsuma Sake Cups And Pots

Sake is an alcoholic drink made from fermented rice and has been created and drunk in Japan since the Nara period (around 710 to 794 AD). Sake is most usually drunk using quite small cups with no handles call Choko and poured from a ceramic pot or flask called a Tokkuri. There are also other flatter saucer style cups called Sakazuki, but these are usually just used at weddings and on more important occasions.

The Satsuma pottery makers would have drunk Sake and therefore, made Sake cups and pots that were used either for special occasions or as everyday items. Each of the Sake Choko cups would have been adorned with the same hand painted designs that you see on a Satsuma Vase, making them very beautiful pieces. Each cup, pot to bottle would have also been signed with the makers name or mark, the same as all other pieces - so you can check for these when making an identification of the items before buying.

As with some of the Satsuma vase items, the cups and pots may have just been ornamental, rather than being used all the time. The Japanese hold tradition and ceremony very highly in their culture, so some pieces of Satsuma were more decorative, not practical.

The tiny Choko sake cups are only designed to hold a very small amount of drink and do not have handles. They tend to be like a rounded bowl shape, rather than with a stem or base to them. However, more modern sake cups made in the Satsuma style (1910's onwards - Meiji period) have been known to represent a traditional western cup design, or have a short stem on the bottom.

Lithophane Sake Cups

Some modern sake cups or bowls have Lithophanes in the bottom, where thin and transparent pottery is used to display an image of a face or a picture. Due to this being quite a modern technique (1820's) the pieces of Satsuma that you might find this on are certainly not antiques. However, they are very beautiful and seeing a face at the bottom of your sake cup after taking a drink would be a good thing.

Tokkuri Pot

The pot used for serving the alcoholic mash made from water and rice is called the Tokkuri and is also quite small in size compared to a western teapot. The Sake would be poured from it's bottled container and served either chilled or at room temperature.

The Tokkuri is usually just a pot with a spout and handles, also decorated in the Satsuma style, but can also take the form of a bottle shape, with a cylindrical body and thinner neck. However, some other items of Satsuma do look like sake bottles - so be careful it is not a bud vase (used for displaying a small amount of flowers). Try to imagine filling the bottle or pouring from it. Sometimes this will help you identify if the bottle is for sake or not.

As part of the sake serving equipment, there are also larger bowls that are used to clean and wash the smaller cups. These bowls can also be hand painted in the satsuma style and form part of a set.

Here are a selection of items for sale on eBay at the moment that relate to Satsumaware Sake cups, pots and equipment.  Remember to check them for authenticity before you buy.