“The Voyage of the Soy Sauce Bottle: The Material Culture of Comprador Bottles.”
This paper explores the unique white porcelain bottle, namely “Comprador Bottle”(コンプラ瓶), manufactured in nearby Hasami(波佐見) region. The vessel owns two lines of layers at the neck, an angled-shoulder, and a heavy bottom in general. Above all, the written letters of “JAPANSCHZOYA” or “JAPANSCHZAKY” in cobalt blue manifests the purpose of the bottle – carrying soy sauce or Japanese sake to the European continent. It is noteworthy that the Japanese contrived this container solely to export their traditional condiment to the west, whereas they continued to use wooden barrels domestically. While comprador bottles have only been briefly mentioned as an exemplar of the product of Nanban trade(南蛮貿易) in Nagasaki(長崎), Japan, no individual studies on comprador bottles have been conducted until now. Revolving around the distinctive appearance and its materiality, this paper aims to examine the material culture of comprador bottles. First of all, I would like to discuss the motivations behind the invention of the comprador bottle itself based on the combination of external demands for exotic spice and domestic craze for foreign glass objects during the period. Next, elaborations on why ceramic was chosen to be the most favorable base material and the factors that contributed to the completion of the comprador bottle prototype will illuminate on the most unknown aspects. Along with the background of food and hygiene history during the Edo period (1603-1868), this paper hopes to shed light on this peculiar vessel.