The Onishi family has been creating Kama - iron tea kettle for Cha-no-yu or Japanese Way of Tea for about 400 years. Historical Tea Masters, especially those in the samurai class such as Furuta Oribe ordered their Kama to be made by the Onishi family. Each piece is unique in appearance mirroring the owner's tea aesthetics.

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During the 15th century Momoyama era, 72 ironsmiths lived in this area known as Kamanza, which means a guild for iron craft. They had special recognition under the Tokugawa regime to deal in iron. The guild created pots and pans for daily use, gongs and lanterns for religious use, and utensils for tea ceremony. The area prospered until the Meji Restoration (1868) ended the Tokugawa Shogunate. The Onishi family is one of the two remaining families in this area that continues to create Kama for Japanese Tea Ceremony.

You may have heard about the Senke family, the descendants of Sen-no-Rikyu, a well-respected tea figure in the 15th century. There are ten traditional craft families who make utensils for the Senke. Each of the ten families is specialized in a certain materials or technique such as metal work, pottery, paper, fabric lacquer or bamboo. Each family including the Onishi, plays a significant role in preservation of high quality Japanese arts and crafts.

The creation of a single Kama takes at least three year. The design process is similar to that of an architect as the craftsman will make a rough sketch of the shape, eventually coming up with a blueprint. Based on the blue print, a wooden guide is created which is spun around in a ceramic mold. This becomes the outer mold. A slightly smaller inner mold is then made so that heated iron (1550℃) can be poured in between the two molds. After the iron has cooled down, the piece is removed out from the molds, and heated again at 800℃ which strengthen the iron. Several steps follow to complete a piece. Over the long years of use, there will be gradual rusting on the surface. The ageing is part of the appreciation as a well-kept Kama will develop beautiful patina.

Unlike the other tea utensils that are brought in and out of the tea room, the Kama will remain in the tearoom throughout the gathering. The sound of the boiling water is known as Matsu-kaze, which portrays a wind through the pines. As the host pours out hot water or replenishes cold water, there is a moment of stillness until the silence is broken in the tearoom as the water boils once more


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Access: 6 minute walk from subway station ‘Karasuma OIKE’ exit # 6