When it comes to tableware no one does it quite like the Japanese.

While western tableware is limited to plates, side plates, a couple of bowl sizes and a serving dish, the Japanese have a plate and bowl shape and size for almost anything. From wide-mouthed tapered ramen bowls to deep ‘tea bowls’, flat serving plates to chopsticks. Not only does the variety of shapes and sizes make for an eye-catching table setting, but the elaborate designs and lacquered finish make for a truly exquisite looking dinner party as well.

Of course, if you’re not familiar with Japanese tableware than the different names and designs can be confusing, to say the least. Even if you are somewhat familiar with the Japanese ramen bowl, chances are there’s a lot more out there you could be missing out on. For novices and veterans alike, we’ve put together ten traditional Japanese tableware items you probably haven’t heard of but will definitely wish you had.

How to set a traditional Japanese table setting

Chawan

Literally translated to ‘tea bowls’ this bowl has been traditionally used in the tea ceremony and they are also collected as works of art in their own right.  But they are perfectly proportioned to fit in your hand so some people use them as rice bowls too.

Chopsticks

No Japanese spread would be complete without a pair of chopsticks at each place setting. They’re used extensively throughout Japan where traditional western cutlery is all but absent. Today you can find chopsticks in a huge range of colours and elaborate designs from the most basic to the most intricate. Of course, if you are hosting your very own Japanese inspired dinner party you can always invest in some elegant lacquer cutlery. Perfect for any chopstick novices without detracting from the Japanese style.

While chopsticks are traditional, our lacquer cutlery is a more practical addition to a modern Japanese table setting

Hashi-oki

This unusual tableware looks a little confusing until you see it in action. Hashi-oki is simply the chopsticks rest and should be used instead of the plate, bowl or table if available. While not the most essential tableware item, they do add some stylish flair to your place settings.

Shiru-wan

Put on a lid on it with our Oshitsu container, perfect for storing, heating and eating left overs all in one container

If you want the wow factor and like the sound of serving up some traditional Japanese soup or broth, then a shiru-wan is a must have. This deep bowl is usually lacquered (all the better to go with a lacquer spoon) and comes with a lid that is often highly decorative. Sometimes when you are serving it can be hard to take the top off as the steam expands the top so that it sticks to the base. Just give it a gentle squeeze around the edge and the top will pop off. If you like the idea of putting a lid on things, our Oshitsu container is stylish yet practical take on it's traditional Japanese cousin. Perfect for keeping soups and food warm at the table, or even storing, heating and eating leftovers all in one go.

Yakimono-zara

This bark plate is a great serving platter for your traditional Japanese tableware

Turn your food into a show-stopping centrepiece with a yakimono-zara, a flat serving plate that is usually used to serve grilled food but can really be used to serve up any Japanese delicacy you like. They are often rectangular shaped but many are square shaped as well, similar to our lacquered flat bark platter.

Chuzara and Kozara

This bowl-like plate is a staple oin any traditional Japanese tableware

These rounded plates vary in size with chuzara typically bigger than their kozara counterparts. While often used to serve sashimi, these slightly curved and almost bowl-like plates can be used to serve up a variety of Japanese cuisine. Ideal for starters or small desserts, our Sujitsuki plates fit neatly into this category.

Kobachi

A modern take on the traditional Japense tableware, our Kashiwan bowl is perfect for nibbles and sides

This is like a Japanese tapas bowl or the side plate of Japanese bowls. This small bowl is fairly shallow and typically used for vinegar dishes or special delicacies. We think they also work well for extra nibbles and snacks around the table, which is what a lot of people use our wooden Kashiwan bowls for, as they are totally food safe and feel lovely and smooth in the hand.

Donburi-bachi

This modern bowl is similar to its traditional Japanese tableware cousin and is perfect for rice dishes

A donburi-bachi certainly has a dominating presence on the table. This large wide mouth bowl is used in Japan for soba and udon dishes as its shape makes it perfect for meat and noodle broth combinations. A donburi-bachi or our similar Tatsumi Nigori Bowl are both also perfect for rice dishes.

Nimono-wan

If you’re looking for a smaller alternative to the Donburi-bachi, then why not try our of range Japanese cereal bowls.

Another wide-mouthed bowl this tableware item is much smaller than the donburi-bachi and used for stewed or boiled food, normally with a delicate clear broth. If you’re looking for a smaller alternative to the Donburi-bachi, then why not try our of range Japanese cereal bowls. This tableware is completely versatile and can be used for various dishes at breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Yunomi-jawan

This modern matching cup and saucer is a traditional take on the traditional tea-bowl widely used in Japan

Another tea-inspired bowl, a yunomi-jawan, or often simply yunomi, is traditionally used to drink Japanese green tea and comes in a range of sizes depending on the occasion – and your appetite! If you want to keep things familiar but firmly in the realm of Japanese style, try our range of cups and mugs, many of which come with matching saucers.

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