For similar examples in the Hakone Museum of Art and Musee Guimet see Chuokoronsha, Nihon no toji [Japanese ceramics], vol. 5, Ko-Kutani, Ko-Imari, (Tokyo, 1972), pls. 60 and 62
This important dish of five-coloured Ko-Kutani porcelain, has been in private hands for over fifty years and was last exhibited in the 1950s. The nine-lobed dish depicts a Chinese scholar offering tea, prepared by a young acolyte, to his guest. Unlike most Imari ware, which was made for export, Ko-Kutani was very much in Japanese domestic taste with its bright colours and exuberant motifs. Whereas the export porcelain has a limited range of motifs, Ko-Kutani designs vary greatly and indicate the skill of imaginative and inventive painters. No two pieces of Ko-Kutani are the same. The painters were no mere copyists, but free and talented artists in their own right.
It was hugely popular with the samurai class, and many pieces survive from the collections of the Edo period daimyo (feudal lords); it was both technically advanced and intellectually stimulating for more than a century before porcelain was first made in Europe. The outer circumferential band on this dish shows a series of interlocking hexagonals outlined in black under the green enamel, with nine panels having blue opposed frond-like motifs, which have been identified with the daki myoga (hugging ginger) mon of the Nabeshima clan. These nine alternate with nine mokko (cucumber section) window shapes, of which five have phoenixes in red and three have pine, bamboo and plum respectively. One has all three of those auspicious 'friends'. A further inner circumferential blue band has shippo mon (cloisonné design) in underglaze black, forming a series of interlocking circles each with a cross in the centre, deriving from Ming and Ching dynasty wares. The Chinese pictorial theme of the outdoor tea party is apparently from the same series as that found on a similar dish in the British Museum collection, with three standing Chinese figures, which has been shown by Arakawa and Rousmaniere to have been taken from a Chinese book the Bazhong Huapu (in Japanese the Hasshu Gafu) popular in Japan during the early 17th century.