Every day I enjoy my meals, so I love the small things in life, such as the plates or the utensils to ohashi (chopsticks) I use to enhance the enjoyment of my meals.
Life is short, and I do not need a million and one things, and a few pieces that are eclectic or distinctive will do because “I live to eat” vs. “eat to live.” So any meal can be enjoyable, and if you are the same way, I hope to highlight a few businesses that will contribute to your enjoyment of your daily/meals because it’s good to appreciate things on the daily.
Word of mouth, the storefront, to an advertisement is how we used to decide where we shopped.
Now that we are shopping online more than ever, I am now that little bird on your shoulder helping you to find and determine the online seller that best suits you and what you are looking for (or to find a site with cool pictures or a cute-looking thingy).Are you a Target vs. Walmart, Room & Board over Crate & Barrel, or Roche and Bobois over Ligne Roset type? Well, we will soon find out if you are a Miya or a Musubi Kiln type.
Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself, and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. So a big fat thank you to everybody who does purchase through my affiliate links because it is very much appreciated. Also, there are several (majority of the) brands where I get absolutely nothing, but I want to support them, and I hope you will do the same (at least you get that cute thingy).
The TL;DR (the Summary or “Too Long, Didn’t Read)
I wonder how some businesses get their ranking on Google, so I enjoy tearing these businesses apart to see if those rankings are warranted and here is the gist of my results:
- Engagement and a top-notch global company with products out of Ginza, Japan (an area the equivalent of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills) go to MusubiKiln.com.
- If you are an American looking for some basic dinnerware, I recommend Miya.com, the 70-plus-year-old Asian American company out of Princeton, New Jersey.
For the rest, or the details, keep reading.
The Basics of Japanese Pottery and Porcelain
I had to learn these basics because I only had a vague idea that there are “hundreds of different wares and styles that have existed throughout Japans history” – via Wikipedia.org (of course Wikipedia has a full listing of all the types, and you will have to click the link to learn more).
If it were not for the Chinese and Koreans, we would not be able to enjoy all of these uniquely Japanese creations 2,400 years later.It’s also cool to see how the Portuguese have influenced Japan (I enjoyed Martin Scorsese’s movie Silence, but I mean with food, like tempura aka peixinhos da horta).
My small contribution to understanding the hundreds of different wares is the naming convention:
- Japan is made up of 47 prefectures (jurisdiction and administrative divisions). Just like wagyu and Kobe beef, they represent their prefecture, somewhat like Roquefort(village)/Occitania cheese or Champagne (was a province), France.
- The first part of the name is typically the region (the regional brand): Kyo (Kyoto/Kyoto prefecture), Mino (Mino Province/Gifu prefecture), Iga (Iga/Mie prefecture), Kutani (Kutani/Kaga, Ishikawa prefecture), or Aritaware (Arita/Saga prefecture).
- The second part usually consists of “ware”: yakimono (earthenware; pottery; porcelain; china), tōjiki (ceramics), or tōgei (ceramics/porcelain).
First Things First, I Want to Know What the Top Options Are
When I Google “where to buy Japanese tableware,” this is what comes up in the top 5 ranking – there is a 6th-10th listing I added because the 3rd ranking site is a “flea market” of Japanese themed products and the focus of this content is on Japanese producers (made in Japan):
If you ever wanted to know who is behind the companies when you Google something, that is what I do.Who owns them, their integrity, what products they carry, are they dog or cat people, etc.
|1||Akazuki Japanese Store|
www.akazuki.com and a
shaved ice/kakigori and a Totoro (official products only) online store.
|2||Miya Japanese Tableware & Gifts|
Family-owned retail and wholesale business since 1947.
(upwards of 40
|3||My Japanese Home|
Japanese themed products from China.
(not Japanese or Japan-owned/based)
A new startup that was founded in May ’20
|5||Zen Table Japan|
Mino-ware to Shigaraki-ware.
“Same price as buying kutani wares in Japan. Form a closer relationship with kutani ware.”– Japanese Kutani Store
Restaurant and Retail Supply of Dinnerware
When it comes to all things Japanese food/kitchen, these two are my usual suspects and a newly added brand, O’baware.
|*||MTC Kitchen, NYC/LA|
|*||O’baware, Boulder, CO|
Off the beaten path, Colorado
I blog because of people like Kazu Oba, the dude with pimp hair and the one behind O’baware.
No faceless entity here, O’baware is what you get when a Nihonjin (a Japanese person) apprentices under two masters, Jerry Wingren, a sculptor in stone and wood, and master Takashi Nakazato in Karatsu, one of the ceramic centers of Japan. Now that he’s a Coloradan, you can find his work in restaurants in stores New York, Colorado, Wyoming, Maine, to Japan.Out of all the people I come across, you can tell through a correspondence, which ones got game.
O’baware specializes in making complete dining sets through a collaborative process with chefs resulting in designs specialized and specific to each menu.
Whether you are a restaurateur, chef, or would simply like to commission a set for your home, O’baware got chu.
“Using tableware filled with narrative will bring smiles and inspiration to your table.”– Musubi Kiln
Who Did Not Make the Cut (For Obvious Reasons)
I have added to the above list semi-relevant businesses based on several search phrases and keywords that did not make the initial cut. The additional searches are semi-related goods, which is not a stretch because I think you would enjoy these cool businesses to ones worth giving a shot at due to the people behind the effort.
Alphabetical order (not by ranking)
|(6)||Japanese Kutani Store|
www.kutani-ware.jp (worth the chance?)
They are tableware related, but they are a new startup (Aug ’21?) by a Tokyo, Japan based company, Tag Cross marketing.
www.kinto-usa.com (things to match your yoga mat)
KINTO is a Japanese brand aspiring to create products that enrich your everyday life.
OsaraNY.com (very transparent and upfront with where their products are made, minus the choice of domain name).
Chinese made dinnerware, but they have been working with a long time partner since 2005. Leader Trading is a restaurant equipment & supply, custom kitchen stainless-steel fabrication, and the bulk of what they market is from China under Japanese pretenses although they have a dedicated page of made in Japan products.
This is a slight deviation, and I want to help promote the sisters Yingchi and Yuchen who have curated well-designed tableware and more from Japan, Taiwan, and S. Korea. Their retail location is in Brooklyn, NYC.
West LA business specializing in donabe (Japanese clay pot/earthenware), not primarily in tableware.
If you are looking for Kobayashi porcelain, like a coffee mug, one of the last ones was broken on the movie set of the Usual Suspects.That is such an epic movie, and you can find products that play off of the movie on Etsy.
Now, I Want to Know How These Businesses Differ From One Another (aka Branding)
This is how I spent my last couple of decades by differentiating and building brands, but unfortunately, most businesses think branding is graphic design, or a logo. So what I will do, is dig deep to see if I can discern the core differentiators that make these businesses who they are, their brand (businesses are always a reflection of the management or in sole proprietorship or small business, the owner).
A/S/L (an old AOL reference) which I am referring to Age (when the business was established), Shipping turnaround/transit times, and Location.
Why does location matter? Shipping costs, turn-around times, and minimizing language and cultural issues/misunderstandings. Finding a business that is familiar or understands you and your needs can make purchases all that much easier.Some businesses may sell internationally, but some offer very little support for the markets they claim to sell/cater to.
|There are 2 different available shipping methods.|
EMS / DHL: The fastest delivery (but the most expensive), usually within 4 to 6 days to Europe, North America and Australia. EMS or DHL is insured up to 30,000 yen in case of loss or damage.
AIRMAIL eco: Delivery will also take about 14 to 21 days to Europe, North America and Australia and parcels have a tracking number.
Every order is prepared within 48 hours after the payment confirmation (except Saturdays, Sundays and Japanese holidays).
|We offer a discount on shipping fees when your total cart price is over US$50 (about 6,500 Yen). Furthermore, when your total cart price is over US$350 (about 45,500 Yen), we offer additional discount.|
We work hard to deliver your order to you as soon as possible. We usually ship your order on the same day or the day after your order is placed. If shipment takes more time for any reason, we will contact you with details of the delivery time. After shipment, carriers usually deliver within 2-8 days. Delivery time may vary by destination. Some items which are needed to restock takes more time, usually take more than 1 week and sometimes it could take several month.
Miya Table & Home
Somerville, New Jersey
|We will ship your order as soon as we can, in-stock items usually within 2 – 5 business days. Please note this time frame does not include transit time.|
|Ginza, Tokyo, Japan/|
|Multiple international shipping options. Discounted shipping for over $34 and free shipping for over $338 USD (Insured shipping service against damage in transit). We try to ship your order within 3 to 5 business days. (Pre-ordered items may take 1-2 months to be delivered.)|
|My Japanese Home|
My Japanese Home
|P.O. Box in|
Covent Garden (UK)/Albury (AU) w/their domain out of Canada
|All our shipments are free: We operate with several suppliers from different locations, so your products may be delivered separately. The estimated shipping time is 2-4 weeks depending on the supplier’s and the customer’s location.|
Union marc Co., Ltd.
|All orders shipped from Japan. Due to COVID-19, the delivery company and customs clearance are experiencing delays. The delivery may take about a month from the date you place your order.|
Beautiful. Simple. Fun. That’s Miya.– Miya (pronounced MEE-ya)
Listed in alphabetical order.
My Japanese home sells Japanese themed products (Japanese motifs) made elsewhere and there are reviews of people finding that out after the fact.The tip-off was seeing the fake aka sneaky/sketchy “Japanese knives” marketed under the guise that you are buying a Japanese made knife by the parent company Keemake from China (it is a common tactic by Chinese producers to market any and all their products as being Japanese) .
|GENERAL PRODUCT |
|Akazuki||(Iwachu) cast iron products from Japan.||Tableware, kitchenware, tea & tea ware, textile & interior, alimentation.|
|“We bring the best of Japan home so you can too” (Miya).||Tabletop, Jewel Japan, collections, kitchen, whimsy, sets|
|Musubi Kiln||Primarily (Gatomikio) lacquerware, but also (Ginpo Kikka Banko) donabe and (Nambu) ironware products from Japan.||Dinnerware, flatware, and serve ware, drinkware & bar, interior & accessory.|
|My Japanese Home||Couches, lamps, clothing, to coffee makers, and no specific central focus.||Tableware, kitchen, decor, tea ceremony & coffee, living room, traditional clothing, bathroom (anything and everything).|
|Toiro Kitchen||US representative of Nagatani-en, a leading producer of authentic Iga-yaki (Iga style) donabe and versatile earthenware products from Iga, Japan||Donabe from Iga Japan, and tableware from Japan: rice bowls, donburi bowls, condiments, small plates, dinner plates and bowls, serving plates and bowls, trays/boxes/baskets.|
|Zen Table||Ramen bowls (Mino-ware) to mortar and pestles from Japanese producers.||Tableware: appetizer bowls, plates, baking dish, bouillon cups, cereal bowls, chawanmushi cups, chopstick holders, chopsticks, coffee spoons, condiment pot, cup and saucers, cutting boards, dessert bowls, dinner plates, dispenser bottles, divided plates, donburi bowls, etc.|
Branding is all about managing your expectations, so I will highlight why these businesses have outperformed the competition, which will give you an idea of what to expect from their brand.If only Disney understood branding, they would not have all the issues they have been having with their IP’s.
How Popular Are These Tableware Websites
Higher the number the better because this is a guesstimate as to how much web traffic these businesses get per month.
WEB TRAFFIC/PAID ADS
|1. Akazuki||7,300 / 2 paid||2|
|2. Kutani-ware||900 / 1 paid||6|
|3. Miya Company||11,000 / 29 paid||1|
|4. Mogutable||1,300 / 0 paid||4|
|5. Musubi Kiln||1,400 / 513 paid||3|
|6. (My Japanese Home)||(9,000 / 43 paid)||(2)|
|7. (Toiro Kitchen)||(17,000 / 0 paid)||(1)|
|8. Zen Table||950 / 0 paid||5|
A lot of these businesses will sell overlapping products like the Ginpo Kikka donabe, but I like the customer comments on Miya’s website like “it is so beautiful and sturdy. shipping was expensive but they packaged it in no way that it could be damaged – worth it. Made in Japan!!” by Jessica S.Well, that’s a glowing endorsement if you are concerned about your shipment being damaged in transit.
My Two Cents on 6 Japanese Tableware and 1 Chinese ePortal Company
This is the part I thrive on because like buying a car, people are not simply looking to buy a car, and they are looking for the right person to buy the car from (I learned that from Jeff Balogh, Colorado). So if you care where and who your money goes to, I hope to divulge more of those details right here.
In Alphabetical Order (Not Rankings)
These short blurbs is my take on each one of these companies.
A number one ranking site on Google for “where to buy Japanese tableware,” and I think that ranking is well-deserved when you read their “shipping information” because they seem to care. The others state 2-4 days for processing, and a month in shipping although Akazuki spells out your options.My maternal grandparents are from Kyushu, a region I visited once, and I worked at a restaurant where everybody was from Fukuoka, the Akazuki stomping grounds. So I have a small attachment to any business in this region.
When it comes to tech/the internet, Japan lags behind the rest of the world, especially the United States. Although, I wonder if Tag Cross Marketing based in Tokyo, a company riding on the coattails of Musubi Kiln, will get Kutani-ware.jp off the ground.Currently the site sits in last place which is not good for a digital marketing company although they seem to be covering their bases with SEM.
In the “biz” they call the business the “biz”, and this 3rd generation biz is an Asian American family business. A business that comes off and is more of a broker of imported products from Japan vs. a brand that is directly involved with the design and or production of tableware.They successfully distribute their product to a number of small and eclectic retailers throughout the US.
Like NYC’s diversity, Mogutable has curated a diverse collection of tableware by the Taiwanese, Japanese, and South Koreans. All the heavy lifting is done, and you have to do is choose what you want.Mmmmh, now I am thinking beef noodle soup, ramen, and galbitang.
When it comes to fit and polish, this company/team, reflects well on the products they sell which are of high-quality fit, finish, and polish (a mirror of Musubi Lab, founded by brothers Mototsugu and Takatsugu Fusada).To me, this is the cream of the crop when it comes to copywriting, imagery, and customer service: I had a chance to interact with a staff member who I later realized is one of the brothers (wow, they keep delivering).
If you are looking for everything, this is your spot. NOTICE: these products are Japanese themed which means you are not buying products from or made in Japan (based on the reviews and a few products I am aware of, are made in China).From couches to coffee makers, that is just a small bit of their range of products sourced from China, which I call a ePortal (it is sort of obvious if you understand the culture because Chinese restaurants will typically have 100+ items on the menu, and the same goes with the way they do retail which is “more is better.” vs. specialization (sushi, tempura, ramen, udon restaurant only).
“…beautifully crafted Japanese donabe (clay pot) products for your everyday use. We are the official US representative of Nagatani-en, a leading producer of authentic Iga-yaki (Iga style) donabe and versatile earthenware products from Iga, Japan.”If you heard of Le Creuset (founded in 1925), the Japanese have also been doing earthenware on the other side of the globe (the Nagatani’s are an 8th generation family that have been in the Iga-yaki game since 1832).
This site is a basic-template website, but there are several clues to the person or individual(s) behind this effort. Those clues say they are more than capable because they explicitly define their strengths and why you should buy from Zen Table Japan.Why buy from Zen Table? “Produced and managed by Japanese pottery artists and all products are shipped from Japan.”
This Is an Epic Article by Just One Cookbook
Just One Cookbook calls it “The Ultimate Guide to Japanese Tableware,” and you will want to mosey or sashay on over and read it, bookmark it, and possibly memorize it for small talk at your next dinner party because the article covers:
- Table set-up.
- The must-have Japanese tableware.
Ditch the Wrapping Paper and Go With a Reusable Furoshiki This Year
The holidays are coming up and no better time to get acquainted with a Japanese furoshki (fu-ro-shi-ki) which are traditional reusable environmentally-friendly wrapping clothes – we used to use old cloth rice sacks to use for yard work (to wrap up branches and leaves), so it is scalable and not just for tiny things.
Supporting Small Businesses Globally
Amazon provides a tool for China to go direct to consumers by cutting out the middleman, which was American brands and retailers who used to be the gatekeepers/guardians of the American consumer.
If you are wondering if you should buy off of Amazon, I will warn you that you never know what you are going to get (Forrest Gump knew that) because Chinese producers have no issue deceiving you to believe you are buying whatever they want you to believe.Almost all the knives on Amazon under “Japanese knife” are Chinese brands with Japanese sounding names to marketing copy that includes “headquarters in Tokyo, Japan to Japanese craftsmen, Japanese artistry,” except they are all made in China by Chinese companies. 38% of ALL sales on Amazon are to China-based companies (it was 42% before Amazon’s crackdown).
The Japanese Tableware Brands on Amazon (Made in Japan)
Chinese businesses are very sneaky with their marketing, although Amazon has been cracking down on these deceptive brands. Even with my experience as a marketing professional (BS detector), it takes me time to parse through these brands.
You can also avoid deceptive brands by looking explicitly for “made in Japan” depicted in the product imagery.
|BRAND/SELLER||TYPE OF WARE|
(produced in Mino Province)
Multiple vendors from Cellar door books (Zentra, LLC/NC)
|Sourced from all over Japan.|
|Product of Gifu, Japan|
(produced in Mino Province)
|Saikai Pottery/Saikai CO., LTD (saikaitoki.com)|
UJC Mart Japan
(produced in Mino Province)
|Zen Table Japan|
(produced in Mino Province)
Itadakimasu (“bon appétit!”)