This small but striking lacquered wooden tea caddy would have introduced a graceful note of richness into the stark simplicity of the Japanese tea room. It is a container for fine powder green tea (matcha) used in the tea ceremony for thin tea (usucha). It is named after the natsume or jujube fruit, which has a similar shape. Natsume are first recorded as being used by important tea ceremony masters in 1563. Natsume extensively decorated in gold later became an indispensable part of the tea ceremony. This is one of the most dazzling and well-preserved extant natsume of the Edo period. It is in the Kodaiji maki-e style, in which dramatic effects are created through zigzag lines dividing the surface into black and gold areas.

From Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 89 (2015)
Artist Japanese
  • Natsume Tea Caddy
Date early 17th century
Medium black lacquer on wood
Dimensions Overall: 2 9/16 × 2 1/2 × 2 5/8 inches (6.5 × 6.4 × 6.7 cm)
Credit Line Museum Purchase, Ancient Art Deaccession Fund, gifts from Henry G. Stevens, Mrs. Byron C. Foy in memory of her father Walter P. Chrysler by exchange
Accession Number 2014.37
Department Asian Art
Not On View
(Takashi Yanagi);
2014-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)