Gato Mikio Tea Caddy Karmi Kama

Gato Mikio

Elegant, hand-turned tea caddy made of natural birchwood (Soji ソジ) by the renowned, traditional Japanese lacquerware brand Gato Mikio, based in the famous Yamanaka Onsen. This tea caddy is from the brand's Karmi range, and is crafted in the kama (釜; kettle) shape. The lid is well-fitted for optimal aroma protection. Holds approx. 100g



Approx. 100g tea
Height 11cm
Diameter 9cm
Origin Yamanaka lacquerware by Gato Mikio, one of the most renowned producers of traditional lacquerware in Japan
Material Grooved birchwood
Lacquer Polyurethane
Closure Well-sealed, snug-fitting lid

Delivery : 1–3 business days

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In stock


Winner of numerous national and international design awards, the traditional woodworking plant GATO MIKIO was founded in Yamanaka Onsen (山中温泉) in 1908 by master woodturner Komakichi Gato. The small hot spring resort (onsen 温泉) was made famous by the travelogue "The Narrow Path to the Deep North" (Oku no Hosomichi 奥の細道), by Japanese poet Basho, which praises the onsen's rejuvenating waters. The humid climate in the region is ideal for working with urushi and Japanese lacquerware. Now in their fourth generation, GATO MIKIO is committed to preserving Yamanaka lacquerware traditions by carefully adapting them to the modern world. The vertical tatekidori cutting method characteristic of Yamanaka lacquerware is used to cut the wood, which makes it more stable and brings out its striking natural patterns.

To further enhance the natural beauty of the wood, GATO MIKIO tends to use the fuki-urushi (拭漆) ("wiping varnish") technique (also known as suri-urushi 摺り漆; "rubbing varnish"), in which a clear varnish is rubbed into the wood. The raw varnish is applied with a brush, then evenly distributed and wiped off. Finally, the wood is carefully polished with sandpaper. This process is repeated five to six times and can take several months, with each coat adding strength and shine to the vessel.

This special attention to material and detail clearly demonstrates the two central principles of the traditional craft. These include the preservation of local heritage and a "return to origin" (genten kaiki 原点回帰). Working in collaboration with contemporary Japanese product designers, GATO MIKIO's international award-winning tableware elegantly marries the past to the present.


GATO MIKIO's KARMI series is based on sensuji (千筋), a decorative "thousand stripe" kashokubiki technique in which extremely fine concentric grooves are carved into the wood as it is turned on a lathe. This intricate technique and pattern are among the many famous Yamanaka kashokubiki, each of which requires special tools that are custom-made by the artisans.

Inspired by poet Basho's philosophy on lightness (karumi 軽み), KARMI embodies the open-hearted minimalism of haiku and allows the simple beauty of the objects to shine. According to Basho, light allows for wabi-sabi; the appreciation of transcient and imperfect beauty. Accordingly, all items in the KARMI collection are designed to grow in character and elegance with every use.


1. Kidori 木取り

The wood is cut into round slices. Gato Mikio uses only Japanese wood.

2. Ara-biki 荒挽き

A rough shape is cut. The wood is then dried for 50-60 days, reducing its water content by about 12%. This prevents it from deforming after finishing.

3. Naka-ara-biki 中荒挽き

The wood is cut more accurately (3mm larger). It is dried for another 30-60 days in order to reduce the water content again by around 10%.

4. Shiage-biki 仕上げ挽き

Precise, final cutting and decorating of the parts by hand.

5. Kiji-gatame 木地固め

A first coat of varnish is applied, which soaks into the wood and prevents deformation.

6. Fuki Urushi 拭き漆

The final layers of varnish and polish are applied. Depending on the product, this final step is repeated differing numbers of times until the desired thickness and colour of the lacquer is achieved.


Suitable for storing all types of tea, particularly Japanese green teas.

We recommend storing only one type of tea per tea caddy, in order to avoid mixing flavours. The container should also be filled as high as possible in order to limit the amount of oxygen trapped alongside the tea.


Lacquerware should only be cleaned with a soft cloth or sponge and mild detergent. After cleaning, thoroughly dry with a soft cloth and leave to dry naturally. Urushi lacquers prefer a relatively humid environment and may crack if stored in extremely dry conditions, therefore please use and clean lacquerware occasionally so that it can absorb moisture from the air and a damp cleaning cloth.

Product Details

Used for thousands of years in Japan to coat objects from crockery to furniture and buildings, urushi is the purified sap of the Asian lacquer tree. When dry, the lacquer is both heat and water resistant, providing protection and strength to underlying materials, very often wood, but also bamboo, paper or leather. In Japanese lacquerware itself can be referred to as urushi as well as shikki (lit. “urushi vessel”), and with the development of acrylic resin in the last century, objects coated in synthetic lacquers, such as food-safe polyurethane, are considered urushi/shikki too. Pure urushi is transparent, while the black and red lacquers most associated with urushi are achieved with the addition of mineral pigments. Over this traditional decorative details such as gold maki-e “sprinkled pictures” or raden “shell inlay” can also be applied.

Yamanaka Shikki Urushi

Ishikawa Prefecture, located on the northwestern coast of Japan, is considered the heartland of traditional Japanese arts and crafts and is home to numerous centers of high-quality urushi lacquerware production. In addition to places such as Wajima, the birthplace of Wajima-Nuri lacquer art (輪島塗), and Kanazawa, famous for its maki-e lacquer works (蒔絵) with gold and silver decorations, the village of Yamanaka has a centuries-old history of crafting wooden vessels (kiji 木地) and finishing them with urushi lacquer. The items produced are referred to as Yamanaka shikki (山中漆器) or Yamanaka lacquerware.

The production of Yamanaka shikki dates back to the arrival of a group of woodworkers from Echizen in around 1580 who specialised in the art of hikimono-kiji (挽物木地), i.e. turning wood on a lathe. The goods they produced were sold as omiyage (お土産): souvenirs to onsen tourists. These souvenirs quickly made the area famous for its high-quality lacquerware. From the end of the Edo period (1615-1868), decorative engraved woodturning (kashokubiki 加飾挽き), mastered only in Yamanaka, began to appear. Today, high-quality Yamanaka shikki are popular throughout Japan, and are appreciated as aesthetically pleasing everyday items and fine design objects.

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