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Centuries-old ceramic vessel could be worth as much as 1.6 billion yen (US$13.7 million).

The format of Japanese broadcaster TV Tokyo’s Kaiun! Nandemo Kanteidan is similar to that used by programs in a number of countries. Each episode, audience members bring in heirlooms and other items to be appraised by an expert in art and antiquities.

Most of the time, the value of these family treasures turns out to be largely sentimental. However, a recent episode made a discovery that wasn’t just good television, but historically significant, when one guest had the program appraise a ceramic tea bowl.

Odds are the guest expected the bowl to be somewhat valuable. It’s ownership could be traced back to the guest’s great grandfather, who lived in the Meiji period, when Japan was just emerging from centuries of feudal rule by the shogunate. The great grandfather was also a descendant of Miyoshi Nakayoshi, a 16th century samurai, suggesting that the bowl could be an example of fine craftsmanship in addition to being antique, and both of those possibilities turned out to be absolutely true.

The guest’s tea bowl was determined to be a Yohen Tenmoku piece. That might not be a name you hear very often, even if you’re the sort of person who regularly discusses ceramics. Yohen Tenoku tea bowls simply don’t come up in conversation very often, because there were thought to be only three existing examples in the entire world, until the appraisal of the guest’s bowl made it four.

Though they were produced in China during the song dynasty, all unbroken examples are now located in Japan, with two classified as national treasures by the Japanese government. Their speckled patterns, caused by the formation of iron crystals during the firing process, make them captivating to look at, with some describing the effect as similar to gazing at the cosmos.

▼ A Yohen Tenmoku tea bowl

The value of the Kaiun! Nandemo Kanteidan guest’s bowl (which differs from the two example above) has not been officially released, but the show’s producer, Eikichi Okada, called it “The greatest discover in the 22-year history of the program.” Considering that items featured on the show previously have been appraised at prices up to 500 million yen (US$4.3 million), and that the piece shown in the above tweet is valued at 1.6 billion yen (US$13.7 million), it’s safe to say that the newly discovered Yohen Tenmoku tea bowl is extremely valuable, and that you should always be immensely careful when handling any old dishes you have in your house.

Sources: Jin, My Navi News
Top image: Wikipedia/Key-museo