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Soba Choko (soba noodle cups), Japanese Imari ware

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Japanese: Porcelain: Pre 1900: Item # 389660

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A pair of Imari ware soba choko (soba noodle dipping cups) from the mid-Edo Period (1600-1868,) porcelain with underglaze cobalt blue painted design of "tampopo" (dandelion) and "cho cho" (butterflies.) H.6cm, Dia. 8.5cm. Each cup has the dandelion pattern on front, and butterflies on back. The painting on these cups is wonderfully playful, and a fine example of the stylized brushstrokes of mingei (folk) wares. The pattern of dandelion (or thistle?) and butterflies is unique, and I have yet to see this on another example of soba choko. Repairs have been done to chips on the rims and feet using synthetic gold and lacquer. Although such cups are traditionally classified as soba noodle cups (soba choko,) in their day they would have commonly been used for serving small portions of foods on a tray arrangement, much as a mukozuke or kozara is used in Japanese cuisine presentation today. It was not until later in the Edo period that we see the tradition of dipping soba noodles, and the production of specific vessels for this, become popular in Japanese urban centers.