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【Japanese Cuisine and Glassware】Explaining the Types and History of Glass

新人の板前

Are all glasses the same?

先輩の板前

Newcomer, you’re being naive! Glassware is diverse, each with its own characteristics.

Chefs use not only lacquerware and porcelain but also glass to present dishes. Glassware, with its transparency and beauty, complements Japanese cuisine, especially cold dishes.
Introducing glassware in a course adds freshness and dynamics to the entire meal.

What is Glassware…?

  • Types vary based on production methods and components.
  • Influenced by various cultures and technologies from ancient times to the present.
  • Enhanced beauty through cutting and decoration.

This article explores representative glassware such as bead, gem, crystal, and cut glass.

目次(INDEX)

Glass Manufacturing and Decoration: Melting Sand and Cooling

Do you know what glass is made of? In the game “Minecraft,” glass is made by heating sand from the beach. So, the main ingredient in glass is “sand.”

Main Components of Glass and Transparent Brilliance

Here’s a more detailed explanation about glass.

ComponentMain SourceRole/Characteristics
SilicateSand, Quartz, etc.Main component. Composed of silicon and oxygen, forming the basic structure.
Alkali MetalsSodium, Potassium, etc.Reduces melting point, improves workability.
Alkaline Earth MetalsCalcium, Magnesium, etc.Contributes to strength and durability.
OxidesAluminum, Boron, etc.Affects hardness and transparency.

Charm of Processing and Sculpture Techniques

Glass processing and decoration require advanced skills that have developed worldwide.

  • Shaping by blowing or pouring in molten state.
  • Cutting, polishing, and carving after cooling to create patterns and designs.
  • Layering colors, decorating with metals or stones, and more.

Use of Glassware in Restaurants | Plates, Bowls, Sake Cups

Glassware in Japanese cuisine provides a cool impression, especially enhancing cold dishes during the summer. Commonly used items include plates, bowls, and sake cups.

【Plates】
For plates around 15 cm, they are often used for sashimi and salads.
【Bowls】
Small bowls are ideal for the first course or appetizers with vinegar.
【Sake Cups】
Perfect for matching with Japanese sake. Can be used for aperitifs, suri-nagashi, and appetizers.

【Gem vs. Bead】Japanese Glass Products

Gem and bead are Japanese glass crafts. The general differences are as follows:

ItemGemBead
OriginPortuguese “diamante” meaning diamondPortuguese “vidro” meaning glass
FeaturesGlass with cut patterns. High brilliance and transparency with weight.Blown glass made from crystal glass. High transparency and hardness¹².
ManufacturingMelted and shaped glass, then cut with diamond or emery.Melted glass formed into a rod, blown with breath, and shaped.
ExamplesEdo Kiriko, Satsuma Kiriko, Venetian Glass, Bohemian Glass, etc.Wind chimes, hairpins, goldfish bowls, Hizen beadro, Tsugaru beadro, etc.

【Charm of Crystal Glass】Brilliance of Crystal and Rarity

Crystal glass is high-quality glass that is transparent and shines like crystal. Its high transparency and beautiful cuts enhance the presentation of dishes.

Classification Based on Glass ComponentsFeatures
Soda GlassInexpensive with high versatility. Hard and lightweight. Produces a low, dull sound when struck.
Crystal GlassUsed for luxury tableware. Low hardness for easy shaping. High transparency and refractive index. Produces a high, clear sound when struck.
Silicate GlassUsed as heat-resistant glass. Strong against temperature changes. Has strength.

Characteristics of Crystal Glass | Pros and Cons

【Pros】

  • High transparency
  • High refractive index
  • Luxurious feel
  • Clear, resonant sound
  • Easily processed and shaped

【Cons】

  • Expensive
  • Heavy
  • Prone to scratches
  • Low strength
  • Sensitive to rapid temperature changes

A higher refractive index makes objects appear more brilliant by reflecting light more effectively.

MaterialRefractive Index
Air1
Water1.3
Glass1.5
Diamond2.4

Crystal glass is classified based on the content of lead oxide. The higher the lead oxide content, the higher the transparency and refractive index, creating a sparkling appearance. However, there are concerns about the toxicity of lead.

Crystal glass with a high lead oxide content can leach lead when soaked in substances like “alcohol, carbonated drinks, vinegar,” potentially causing harm to the human body. Currently, it is being replaced by lead-free crystal glass or high-quality colorless transparent glass. Barium and potassium are used instead of lead, resulting in lightweight and durable crystal glass.

Crystal Glass
Detailed Classification
Lead Oxide Content
Density
Full Red
Crystal Glass
30% or more
3.00g/cm3
Red
Crystal Glass
24% or more
2.90g/cm3
Semi-Red
Crystal Glass
10% or more

【Baccarat・Swarovski】International Brands

Crystal glass finds applications in tableware, glasses, vases, ornaments, chandeliers, jewelry, and other high-end crafts and decorations. Let’s introduce two renowned international brands.

【Baccarat】
・French crystal glass brand
・Founded in 1764
・Known for delicate designs
・Highly regarded by royalty and the affluent worldwide

【Swarovski】
・Austrian brand
・Founded in 1895
・Popular for small and colorful designs

【What is Cut Glass?】Tradition and Evolution of Japanese Glass Craft

  1. What is Cut Glass?
    Also known as Cutting Glass
    A decorative glass processing method or product
    Involves using a metal rotating grindstone with abrasive to create unique designs by cutting or polishing the surface of the glass
  2. Edo Period Cut Glass
    Originated from European cut glass
    Decorations on colorless transparent crystal glass
    Technology introduced and established from overseas
  3. Modern Cut Glass
    Glass has a double structure of “colorless transparent interior” and “colored exterior”
    – Colorless transparent interior is “transparent glass” made of crystal or soda glass
    – Colored exterior is “colored overlay glass” made of soda glass

【Edo Kiriko】Government-Designated Traditional Craft

【What is Edo Kiriko?】
From the late Edo period to the present, it is a general term for glass products with cut glass processing produced in Tokyo.
1985 Tokyo Designated Traditional Craft
2002 Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry Designated Traditional Craft

【Conditions for Edo Kiriko】

  1. Must be made of glass
  2. Produced through manual labor
  3. Mainly uses rotating tools
  4. Produced in the specified region (around Koto Ward and the entire Kanto region)

【Characteristics of Edo Kiriko】

Delicate and intricate carvings
Double structure of transparent glass and colored glass
Representative design includes “Rokkomon”
Adoption of Japanese geometric patterns

【History of Edo Kiriko】
Late Edo Period – Kagitani Kyuhei, a bead shop owner in Odenmacho, started it
Meiji Era – Construction of glass manufacturing plants and improvement of techniques due to the teachings of British cut glass artisans led to advancements
Taisho to early Showa era – Gained popularity as “Wa Glass,” and many Edo Kiriko manufacturers were established

【Edo KirikoProduction Process

  1. Marking and Inking
    Place marks for the pattern
    Shallowly cut the reference line with a grindstone
    Create slight marks
  2. Rough Grinding and Third Grinding
    Cut to about 3/4 of the final width and depth
    Use a high-speed rotating disc and sand to cut
  3. Stone Setting
    Refine the pattern, polish, and make the surface smooth
  4. Polishing
    Restore the surface to a transparent, glossy state
    Polish with a disc, grindstone, water, and polishing powder
    Finish with a cloth disc

Edo Kiriko Patterns

Various types and meanings exist for patterns carved into the surface of glass. Let’s introduce some representative ones.

PatternPattern NameDescription
NanakomonPattern resembling fish roe arranged in a row
KikutsunagimonPattern resembling chrysanthemum flowers arranged in a row
Hakkaku KagomemonPattern of a basket created by crossing at a 45-degree angle
KikkamonPattern expressing large chrysanthemum flowers
AsanohamonPattern depicting the view of hemp leaves from above
SasanohamonPattern depicting the shape of bamboo leaves
YaraimonPattern inspired by the enclosure called “Yarai,” created by crossing bamboo

【Summary of Glass Utensils】A Step Toward Mastering the Art

This article has introduced the relationship between Japanese cuisine and glass utensils.

Glass utensils come in various types with different histories, manufacturing processes, decorations, and characteristics.

Specifically, we have explained Beidoro, Gaman, Crystal, and Cut Glass, which are also utilized as Japanese tableware.

Although glass utensils are made using the simple principle of heating and cooling sand to solidify, various techniques and decorations allow for diverse expressions.

With transparency, brilliance, color, and shape, glass utensils exhibit various facets, possessing artistic value themselves.

In other words, depending on their use, utensils can enhance the beauty and taste of dishes, becoming one of the elements in hospitality to customers.

Deepening your knowledge of utensils allows you to generate innovative ideas, discover new ways to enjoy cooking, and grow into a respected chef.

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