What say the peas -- Japanese tea set (ETA photo)

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Posted 7/16/2012 by Epeanymous in NSBR Board


PeaNut 15,108
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Posted: 7/16/2012 11:57:30 AM
ETA photo: http://www.ebay.com/itm/VINTAGE-DRAGONWARE-LITHOPHANE-JAPANESE-TEA-SET-TEAPOT-SUGAR-CREAMER-26-PCS-/360448745621?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item53ec6b6095#ht_3100wt_1108

That is not the exact same set, but similar, and the face is the same. Supposedly it is a geisha.


My father was stationed in Japan during the Korean war and brought back a number of things from his time there. He and my mother just moved to my city and are getting rid of or finding new homes for a lot of their belongings, as their new apartment is small. My father had held onto this tea set for years with the intention of passing it down to me. We never used it when I was growing up and it has been sitting in their garage for twenty years, which I say only to indicate that I have no independent sentimental attachment to it. My father is now eighty.

Here is the thing. When you hold the teacups from the set up to the light, you see a picture of a Japanese woman. I don't really care for the set aesthetically anyway, and that feature doesn't improve the aesthetics for me, but it also seems off and possibly offensive in ways that I can't put my finger on.

So I have two questions for the peas. One, is there something off/offensive about this set (if you understand it as I have described it), and two, whether or not it is off/offensive, am I obligated to keep it as a family heirloom (I am my father's only living relative), or can I offload it (and if I were to offload it, do I need to tell my father, who likely would not notice if I did not tell him)?


PeaNut 18,334
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Posted: 7/16/2012 12:02:48 PM
Is the woman in the watermark doing something offensive? I can't imagine what there is to take offense over.

For it to be thin enough to be translucent to see a water mark type of marking it is a very high quality porcelean. Research it well before selling as it should be worth a good sum.

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oh yvonne
Pea-rom Queen

PeaNut 15,036
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Posted: 7/16/2012 12:04:40 PM
I don't know anything about the tea set as far as what having the woman's image on it means, I grew up around many Japanese Americans and I never heard anything of significance about a tea set with a woman's image when you hold it up. But maybe because I was young?

Other than that, I'd definitely put it up on ebay or something. The set holds no sentimental value to you, I don't see why you should continue to store it. It may be worth money to a collector. Especially since it's probably in pristine condition being stored away like that all those years.

Only you know how your dad would react to you selling it though. I'd have a hard time being dishonest about it, keeping it from him. But telling him might upset him and then you wouldn't be able to sell it. IDK that one is up to you. It all depends on his state of mind.

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PeaNut 157,667
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Posted: 7/16/2012 12:07:26 PM
My thought is, your parents are old and are not going to live forever. It's something that he/they intended to hand down to you. Can you just take it for now so as not to hurt his/their feelings and then dispose of it after they pass if you really dislike it that much?

Ancient Ancestor of Pea

PeaNut 471,001
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Posted: 7/16/2012 12:08:54 PM
I would keep it for my kids. I would love to have something like than of my grandfather's.


PeaNut 530,985
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Posted: 7/16/2012 12:09:15 PM
There should be a maker's mark on the bottom of the pieces. I would find a reputable antiques dealer and ask them for an appraisal.


PeaNut 218,409
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Posted: 7/16/2012 12:12:31 PM
My grandfather was stationed in Japan during the war and brought back a tea cup for my grandmother since she collected them. It has the image of a man in the bottom of the cup when held up to the light, so I don't think it is anything to take offense over.


PeaNut 472,567
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Posted: 7/16/2012 12:21:30 PM
It appears that they were made for the export business during WW2 and afterwards. The value ranges from very little (for common pictures) to a fairly decent sum for more rare images.

From the above link:
Lithophanes or Lithopanes?

I'm told that the word is of Greek origin and approximates in meaning to "light in stone", or to "appear in stone".

Lithophanes or lithopanes are porcelain castings which, when you first see them, appear to be nothing more than uneven surfaces forming a vague picture with really very little to see.

How wrong can you be? Hold a lithophane to the light and marvel at the wonderful three-dimensional picture which appears with incredible depth, detail and beauty.

Popular in Europe in the mid-19th Century, lithophanes began their life as a thin sheet of beeswax. Artisans carved the pictures in the wax, then a plaster-of-Paris mould was made from the wax carving and the porcelain slip was poured into this mould to dry. Removed from the mould, the porcelain was then fired. Where the picture is the lightest, the porcelain is very thin, and where it is darkest, the porcelain is very thick.

Lithophanes may be found in the bottom of cups or steins, may be plaques or wall plates, or votive candle holders.

Wherever you find them, they will fill you with wonder at how such an image is produced and fill you with awe at their beauty.

The lithophanes on my site are Japanese, German, French, English, Hungarian, Swedish & American. Do enjoy them, but please note that the site is purely a celebration of these lovely items.

WARNING, some of the images (in the below link) towards the bottom of the link contain nude pictures.
Japanese lithopanes

When I make decisions about items that I have "inherited", I think of Peter Walsh's words which was somewhat along the lines of that you are not the keeper of someone else's memories. Unless you love it, then get rid of it (donate or sell).

Grom Pea

PeaNut 317,501
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Posted: 7/16/2012 3:03:08 PM
That is so cool! I wish I had a cool tea set like that! I even thought the ones with nudes were cool. I was lucky enough to inherit a tea set from my dh's grandma, but it is maritime roses with no cool hidden images.
I will have to put that on my list of lifetime wants along with venetian glass that changes from blue to purple...also way too expensive to justify
If you have kids, see if they would want it before selling it. Some folks are just more sentimental than others...it's ok to not want it, but make sure no one in your family would want it prior to selling.

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gale w
shiny farmwife

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Posted: 7/16/2012 3:46:30 PM
I can't imagine that it would be offensive. But then again my dad had a lot of Asian art items that featured nude women and one that was a cartoon picture of a bunch (read orgy) of Japanese men and women in various degrees of nudity and umm...positions. The last thing wasn't exactly on display (it was in a book, if I remember correctly) but the others were all displayed throughout our home when we were kids.

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pearl-clutching nitpicker

PeaNut 201,774
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Posted: 7/16/2012 3:48:01 PM
I think the set on eBay is fabulous, and I'm not particularly a fan of Asian-style tea services. (I do collect English and French china.)

I'm not really understanding what's bothering you about the set, but if you don't like it, either get rid of it, or store it till your children are older. Maybe one of them will fall in love with it.

Like the PP, I would be happy to take it off your hands if you don't know what else to do with it.

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Wise~old Pea

PeaNut 17,460
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Posted: 7/16/2012 5:09:13 PM
Fascinating! OP, I would think there is no rush to sell those until you have researched their value. What image are you finding offensive?

ETA: Oh my, my mother used to have a set similar to the one on eBay...... I have no clue where it is though. Although I have no idea if it had the images.

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PeaNut 176,832
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Posted: 7/16/2012 5:25:34 PM
I just this summer received one of those tea sets shown on the EBay list your provided. My grandma passed it down to me when she died in April.

They vary wildly in price; we have a local consigner store who has a resident appraiser who will appraise things periodically. She refers to an online site for appraisals. I wish I could remember its name.

Never mind, I forgot what I was going to say.

PeaNut 40,938
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Posted: 7/16/2012 5:30:46 PM
Unless you have literally tons of heirlooms for your children to choose from, I would keep the set to see if any of them would like it. (if you have storage room and it's not a burden to store)

They're not my style but I do find the image interesting, I've never seen those before. They are not offensive to me at all.

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PeaNut 434,965
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Posted: 7/16/2012 5:34:08 PM
It looks to me as though you have the "wide-eyed Geisha," according to the website given above.

I can't imagine why you'd think it was offensive in any way.

No, you are in no way obligated to keep the set.

Trying to live each day for itself

Baby Pea Step

PeaNut 579,877
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Posted: 2/8/2013 8:07:29 AM
If I was you I would keep it My Dad was there at the same time as yours and he bought his sisters and my mom of the same tea sets and my aunt gave my sister hers before she passed away and my sister got my moms set.and my other sister got my other aunts set.I got left out because my sister is a hog.I wanted a set to give to my wife because Im married to a asain woman.there is nothing offensive about it it's just a trade mark.it would be very sentimental to me.

Kickboxing Pea

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Posted: 2/8/2013 8:34:47 AM
Growing up in South America, my mom had a tea set very similar. It was super delicate & we got to drink out of them on special occasions. We all thought it was so neat to see a Japanese woman as you drank your tea & held it up to the light. Wishing we still had that set! When we left it was b/c of a revolution starting & we had to leave everything behind, including this special tea set!

If it's not your style, I'd try to sell it. No use holding on to something that doesn't mean anything to you & can't enjoy.

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Fatty McWeirdboob

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Posted: 2/8/2013 9:12:42 AM
I find it to be beautiful and would LOVE LOVE LOVE to have it. If you don't like it, I see no reason to keep it unless you want to give it to a child some day.

TaWanDa Riot!

PeaNut 298,090
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Posted: 2/8/2013 9:24:11 AM
I think that set is beautiful! I do understand thou how it may not mesh with someone's particular style.

I have a few "heirlooms" like this.
I'm photographing them and scrapbooking the photos along with my memories of them, and then giving them away to any other family or friends that want them.
If there's no takers, I'm getting rid of them. I just cannot store or keep everything around. Good luck OP.


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PeaNut 96,097
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Posted: 2/8/2013 10:05:01 AM
I have a Dragonware set that used to belong to my grandmother. She'd sold it to a local thrift shop to get $ to give to my worthless uncle (for drugs) - I had always loved it, so I was pretty upset that she got rid of it. So, I went to the thrift shop and bought it back!!!

My best friend picked up a matching platter at an estate sale around the same time that I acquired the tea set. We've been joking for years about her giving me the platter to match my teaset/me giving her the teaset to match her platter. I found a 'smoking set' that matched and gave it to her for Christmas this year.

As someone else mentioned, they were manufactured as souveniers in the 50s, so they're very common and typically not worth a whole lot of money.

I'm not sure why the geisha would be offensive (nude or otherwise).


PeaNut 21,316
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Posted: 2/8/2013 11:24:23 AM
I have really mixed feelings about this.

On one hand, I understand it not being aesthetically pleasing to you and not wanting to store it. I also understand the lure of the money for selling it.

On the other hand, I think it is very cool, and I love the "story" behind it, the connection to history and to your father. Assuming the kids in your profile picture are your kids, you are NOT your father's only living relative. I see a duty to offer this set to family first, even if that "family" is too young to decide for themselves whether or not they would like the set.

As long as storing it is not a large burden, I would hold onto it and pass it down eventually. Your father has kept this tea set for *60* years; it would be nice if you could be its caretaker for a while and allow for the possibility of it falling into the hands of a sentimental descendent.

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PeaNut 43,787
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Posted: 2/8/2013 11:28:40 AM
Check the date ladies, this thread is from last year. I always wonder what someone was goggling when they bump and old thread.


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