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Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, Massachusetts
June 2–October 31

Teabowls, teabox, tea spoon, tea whisk; ceramic, wood, lacquer, bamboo; 6×3 inches, 5×3 inches, 2.5 inches, 3.5 inches. Photo: Joanne Rathe Strohmeyer

Objects of use and beauty: Design and craft in Japanese culinary tools

Sushi knives, lacquer bowls, matcha whisks—the utensils of Japanese chefs are timeless, even ancient. Yet their functional lines and lack of ornamentation evoke an unmistakable Modernism. This exhibition promises to display the finest, sleekest Japanese cooking (and serving) implements, each with a specified purpose.

Although they may seem indistinguishable to Western eyes, the tools reflect subtle regional or historical differences. A chef in Tokyo will employ a different knife for slicing unagi (eel) than a chef in Kyoto—and a different technique for the slicing. “Art and craft are not separable ideas in Japanese aesthetics,” said co-curator Merry White, an anthropologist who has written several books on Japan. White and cookbook author Debra Samuels have scoured Japanese and domestic sources—including their personal collections—for the exhibition, which they hope will include cooking demonstrations and events.

For White, Japanese culinary tools are inseparable from their users. “The user develops a rapport with the tool, a kind of agreement.” Over time, a rice paddle will take the shape of the user’s hand: A marriage of form, function—and feeling.

— Renée Loth