Altfield is pleased to present a fine collection of Japanese hibachis currently in the Gallery. Literally translated as fire bowl (火鉢), this aptly named container is a type of portable heating device with an open top.

Hibachis are both functional and ornamental objects. Although the primary purpose was to generate warmth, they have been used additionally for boiling water and cooking. They vary in size; the smaller ones were intended for hand warming whilst the larger pieces were placed within a centre recess in either the flooring or on a table. They were produced in a wide variety of materials, including wood, lacquer, porcelain and bronze, and in different shapes, although circular forms are the most common. Wooden hibachis are fitted with an insulated casing, often copper or bronze, in which the ash and burning charcoal are held. They were often decorated in maki gold or coloured lacquer, mother-of-pearl, metal, or a combination of these materials, displaying the artisans' skilful craftsmanship.

The earliest hibachis recorded in Japanese history date back to the Heian period (794-1195). Originally, hibachis were reserved for use by the imperial family, the nobility and wealthy members of the society. The hibachi became common after the seventeenth century when coal became readily available. It played a crucial role in daily life in Japan as it was not only a basic necessity but also an object of social and cultural significance. For example, offering one's hibachi to one's guest was a sign of Japanese hospitality. Therefore, great expense and care were lavished on the decoration of hibachis.

The hibachis on displayed in the gallery are all meticulously and artistically decorated by skilful artisans of the old times. We invite you to visit the Gallery to appreciate these collectables, representing Japanese cultural aesthetics and delicate craftsmanship and functioning wondrously for interior decorations, floral arrangements or even as ice buckets in today's contemporary decors.