The hexagonal design of these blue-and-white Arita-ware lidded cups may appear modrn, but they form a pattern centuries old.
Meaning "turtle shell" in Japanese, kikko is also the name of hexagonal leather plates used for samurai armor during feudal Japan. The tessellated hexagon pattern is considered auspicious, a symbol of longevity that's often embellished with central flowers or other motifs and used for textiles.
What we found particularly attractive about these cups is the simplicity of the kikko — its bold hand-painted blue outlines and sparse use of just seven (a lucky number in Japan) hexagons per motif.
The previous owner of these cups, which were originally designed for chawanmushi, a soft savory egg pudding dish, remembers them from her childhood in the 1950s.