This is a collection of vessels, tools, and other objects used in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. They vary widely in material, color, texture, size, shape, age, and function. There are more than a dozen pieces. The black tea pot is decorated with small sprays of flowers in low relief. It has two large round handles attached on either side and a small round lid with a central spherical knob. The tea pot fits snugly into a larger pot-like rounded and footed vessel of the same color. That larger vessel is pierced with small holes at its lip and larger openings in its upper side. Its small feet rest on a rectangular, black painted, wooden tray. The largest container in the set is a blue and white square ceramic box with a contrasting black lid. Each side of the box is decorated in a blue and white lattice pattern bordered with a continuous serpentine band of white stylized motifs in a dark blue background. In the center of each side there is a blue and white landscape inside a diamond. The many other smaller containers in the set are all rounded in shape. They include vessels of varying width and height, both footed and not, lidded and open, shiny and matt, rough and smooth, solid and patterned, painted or unpainted wood. Among them is a shallow, off white, footed cup that has been cracked and mended. It has a stylized fish painted on the outside in broad, black brush strokes. An even shallower shiny, orange vessel is decorated with amorphous black cloud-like designs and white diagonal hashmark-like slashes. A small, unpainted wooden cup sits on a three-legged iron stand. The smallest vessel resembles a mouse or bear. It has gray/brown mottled coloring and a head with large ears like a mouse, but its snout is longer, like a bear’s. Its body is shaped like an inverted egg cup but its long, rounded upper limbs, paws, and upright posture are bear-like. It sits on a matching saucer. There is also a small, shallow, brown, woven basket with four short feet. The basket holds a pair of long nail-shaped pins and a dozen small, white painted twigs, each twig about half the length of the pins. There are other simple tea ceremony tools, including a bamboo whisk, a small metal spatula with a wooden handle (Cha Ze), a long, thin, undecorated, wooden pin (Cha Zhen), and a shorter curved, wooden, digger spoon (Cha Shi).
Of Japanese scholar and philosopher Okakura Kakuzo's many gifts to Isabella, perhaps the most impressive was this tea set he sent to her from Japan in 1905. Earlier that year, he had conducted the tea ceremony (chanoyu) by candlelight one evening at the Museum. At this time, Okakura was writing The Book of Tea, an immensely popular book still in print, which uses the tea ceremony as an introduction to Japanese culture. Isabella had already participated in a tea ceremony in Tokyo in 1883.Following tea practices established over several centuries, Okakura gathered objects of divers materials, colors, textures, origins, and dates. After Okakura's death, Isabella displayed the set on a table in the Chinese Room.