Concrete Pot Mystery???

Concrete Pot Mystery???

Mr. Tanaka and I were organizing one of the storage rooms today and we came across this strange pot.  When Mr. Tanaka first opened the lid and I saw what was inside, I just had to get it out of storage and get a closer look.  Once I pulled this pot out of the box, I knew I wanted it!  The rest of the story and mystery only added to my desire to own it.  This pot was strange and odd enough that I decided to write a post about it and share it with you all.

I’ve never heard or seen a concrete pot before but I have heard of and seen cement pots that were created by Japanese Americans during their interment in the US during World War II.  I was pleasantly surprised as to the quality and finish of the cement pots.  When I pictured a cement pot, I just assume they would look rough but that was not the case at all. There aren’t many of them around anymore, but I do hope to add one to my collection in the future.

This strange pot wasn’t made of cement but concrete (mix of various aggregate with cement and water), which was completely new to me.  Based on the picture, the pot looks new.  If someone handed it to me one day, I would have thought it was just made.  It turns out that this pot is actually quite old. Here are some more detailed pictures of the pot.

Here’s a birds eye view of the top of the pot.  The size of this pot is 46.5cm x 31cm x 13cm and weighs 9kg(20lb) The two small drain holes tells me that it was made to have a plant or a tree in it.  The inside color is the natural color of the pot.  I oiled the outside of the pot so it turned a bit darker just like concrete would.

Here’s a shot of the underside of the pot.  No chop to be found.  So far, there isn’t any reference to where or when this pot was made.

Here is a close up of the polished surface.  It looks like there was 4 different types of stones in the concrete mix.  I don’t know much about stones so I’m not sure what each of these components are. All I know is that there was some thought put into what this pot was going to compose of.  This pattern is consistant throughout the pot.  Perhaps one of the readers will recognize the material and share in the comment section.

Oh wait!  What is this?  There was also a copper insert that fit inside the pot.  This just got more interesting…  Was this made so that the pot can hold water in it?  I think we can all agree that it was to prevent whatever that’s in it from draining through the drain holes.

The copper piece fit perfectly.  This told me that there was a high level of craftsmanship in the making of this pot and insert.  I asked Mr. Tanaka if this pot was rare and he said very much so, and that was the reason why he bought it years ago.  I added water into the copper piece and sure enough, it was able to hold water without leaks.

On the lid of the pot was this Kanji.  Mr. Tanaka translated it to, “Man made rock flower pot.”  Was this pot suppose to be a planting pot for flowers?  If so, what is the copper for?  Ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement) perhaps?  Maybe just to hold water?  The Japanese do like to have water pots around their homes.
On the inside of the top we found this kanji.  Mr. Tanaka translated it to, “Tai-sho san nen (1914) gotten from Mr. Ueda.” Wow!  According to this box, this pot was either bought from or given by a man named Mr. Ueda  in 1914!  Though this doesn’t tell us how old the pot is, it does at least tell us it was around back then.  This is all assuming of course that the Kanji is telling the truth.  Could this pot really be about 100 years old?  I’ll continue to examine the pot to see if I can find any other makers that will give me more information about it’s past.  Perhaps it was made by someone famous, or a local man that got his hands on some concrete and wanted to get creative.  Who knows?!  Mr. Tanaka did add that the typical Japanese citizen in 1914 didn’t use or had access to concrete because most things were still built with wood.  Is this pot even Japanese made?  Maybe the lid of this box this is all the information I’ll ever get or find.  Someone thought this pot was important enough to put it in a box.
I don’t know if it’s the strangeness of this pot or the mystery that intriques me the most.  ;o)

Now what?

So what could I possibly put in a pot like this?  Can I find a tree out there that would match well with this pot?  If so, conifer or deciduous?  Maybe I can use it as a Suiban for Suiseki? Ikebana? or a flower pot in the corner of my house?

What do you think?

Thanks for reading!


19 thoughts on “Concrete Pot Mystery???

  1. Peter Tea says:

    Thanks for the commets everybody! Now I know what a Terrazzo is! LOL

    It turns out that this pot is not made by Ueda in the website link, though it was exciting to read about it. So far, it seems like the pot is a complete mystery. I hoping I can find another one in the future and perhaps the owner would have more information about it. I looked at the pot again and found that the pictures I posted doesn’t do it justice. It really is a beautiful pot and I’m happy to add it to my collection.

    But like, Penny said, “how are you going to get these all home?”

    I haven’t thought that far ahead… ;o)

  2. paulf says:

    I think its a really interesting pot. I believe that out bonsai should relfect a bit of the world around us – and the ( rather attractive ) concrete pot is a great way to reflect our urban living in bonsai.

  3. Peter Tea–History Detective 😉 Thanks for posting. Keep the pot under your growing bench and it will come to you what to do with it. The Vietnamese use them a lot with no detriment to the health of the tree. Nice score!

  4. jeremiah lee says:

    Awesome pot Peter! I’d like to see a fruiting or flowering tree in it.

  5. Sandy Vee says:

    It will have to be a very showy tree to compete with and out shine the pot texture.

  6. cary sullivan says:

    I am sure it is for ikebana with the copper lining. It may also be for incense burning, they use copper lining with them, just a thought.

  7. Billy M. Rhodes says:

    The pots shown on the web site above for the Ueda Naokata family don’t look anything like the pot in question. They are really bowls, not bonsai pots.
    I think we have an experiment by some unknown home craftsman.

    • Frank says:

      Yes I know but there were 5 generations of Ueda Naokata family and they made tea pots and bowls.The third Naokata was born in 1898, and while previous generations focused on teapots and cups, he was the first of his family line to make Bonsai pots. His surviving Bonsai pottery is exceedingly rare and precious, almost never seen. So unless the name Ueda is common name in Japan it very well could be him.

  8. Bruce Winter says:

    I would think the copper insert is for ikebana.

  9. Penny Pawl says:

    I wonder how durable it would be. I had terrazzo floors when we first moved here and when not holding each other together, they were rather brittle.

    So how are you going to get all these pots home?? They sure aren’t carry ons


  10. Frank says:

    It may have been made by the Ueda Naokata family. Here is a site that tells about the family.

  11. Billy M. Rhodes says:

    I would think that is was cast from terrazzo and then hand polished. Note that inside and on the bottom there doesn’t appear to be any polishing.

  12. cherylas2009 says:

    I though of terrazzo also when I first looked at the finish. Interesting.

  13. Mac says:

    I would add that the reason the copper liner fits so well is that it was made first and the concrete pot was cast around it.

  14. Steve Moore says:

    VERY interesting!

  15. Mac says:

    It is for certain terrazzo. Used to be popular for floors in homes in the 1950-60’s range. Now you see it in public buildings for the floors. It wears very well. Different color concrete was used, in Florida white concrete was popular. Then you blended different color marble chips in the concrete. When the concrete set up you had a machine like a floor polisher except it had grinding stones on it. You ground away about 1/4″ of the surface and got the result you see in the pot.

    I think the drain holes are for any spillage out of the copper liner. The calcium in concrete would cause problems with plants planted directly in the pot. For example an azalea being acid loving would die from the calcium.

    There are numerous Chinese and Japanese pots called bulb pots. They look just like a bonsai pot but don’t have any holes in them.

  16. Frank says:

    It looks like it could be Terrazzo. ( Italian thing ) Terrazzo is a composite material poured in place or precast, which is used for floor and wall treatments. It consists of marble, quartz, granite, glass or other suitable chips, sprinkled or unsprinkled, and poured with a binder that is cementitious, chemical or a combination of both. Terrazzo is cured, ground and polished to a smooth surface or otherwise finished to produce a uniformly textured surface.

    Look very nice !!

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