Grandmom’s Tea Set

When my grandmom passed away, it was up to my mom, dad, sister and I to go through her things and figure out what to do with it all. One of the items I picked out for myself was a small tea set. I don’t know why I liked it, but my sister and mom didn’t want the delicate set and I took it. It was neatly put away in a special box.

Japanese tea set

For years it stayed in that special box until my daughter was born and had her first tea party.

tea cup and saucer

Now I am not any kind of antique expert, so recently I have been curious what the meaning of the writing is under the saucer:

japanese writing?This could well be upside down for all I know. 🙁

One of the freakiest moments we have had though, was during Laura’s little tea parties with her friend Shelby, they both got a little spooked when at the bottom of their cup, at the end of their tea, they both noticed, “Hey, there is a face in my cup!”

Sure enough, closer examination showed a definite image of a Geisha looking lady, inside the bottom of their tea cups!

japanese lady at the bottom of the cup

geisha at bottom of tea cup

Now that we’re used to our little lady at the bottom of our teacups we’re not so spooked anymore, just a little curious as to the origins of my grandmom’s little tea set.


You may also like...

119 Responses

  1. John Kaiser says:

    That is really neat.

  2. the Grit says:

    Hi Barb,

    If your Grandfather was in the war, it could be Japanese from that time, or earlier. During the first year or two of occupation, many people traded family heirlooms to soldiers for food. These were shipped home or lost in poker games. Many of the items mailed back to the states, found their way into the possession of postal workers. You should have it appraised by a professional, unless Antiques Roadshow is going to be in your neighborhood.

    the Grit

  3. Beth Ellen says:

    Wow, that is really a really great tea set there. I would def. have it appraised and learn of its history.

  4. Cliff says:

    The characters under the saucer could be either in Japanese Kanji, or Simplified Chinese. And since i onlt know Chinese, it literally translated to “Nine Valley”. To make it sound nicer and more appropriate, “The Ninth Valley”.

    There are a few explanations to those characters being there.
    Could be the manufacturer’s name, or the craftman’s name, or even a location name. The most possible reason i believed is the surname or family name of the particular family whom owned the tea-set.
    Reason, as the tea-set is so exquisite, it could be custom made for that family which should be well-to-do during that era. And since it is custom made, it will be possible to add something to the item to make it more unique, and therefore the family name.

  5. The Tea Lady says:

    Thank you for sharing such a special story about your rare find. I’m always fascinated with any information about tea, and your find was delightful to read about. The picture of the geisha in the bottom of the tea cup is magical.

  6. Laurie S says:

    I have a teacup that my grandmother gave me years ago (at least 40 years ago) and we noticed and laughed about a figure in the bottom of the cup, similar to the picturs above, except it is a nude woman sitting. only lettering is Made in Japan. Just curious if it is of any value or has any real history. 1st time I’ve investigated it, but your site is nearest to what the figure is like. The outside of the cup and saucer have raised dragons.

    Any info would be appreciated. Thanks

  7. Ran says:

    Hi Barb,

    I came across this blog kind of randomly, but I may have some useful information for you concerning this tea set. Cliff’s literal translation of the kanji is correct. In Japanese the kanji would be read as 九 “Kyu” or “Ku” (Nine) and è°· “Tanima” (Valley). Together as 九谷 I read this as “Kutani”. So I believe that the kanji is marking the set as Kutani Ware, which is the name of a style of ceramics that originated in what is now the modern day Ishikawa Prefecture.

    It’s a simply gorgeous set that you possess though, I must say, and you are lucky to have it. =)

    I hope my information helps you. =)


  8. Vivien says:

    Hi Barb I also have a full tea set that my uncle gave me for a engagement present in about 1965 he was in the British Merchant Navy,only mine is pink and gold with the lady in the bottom of the cups when you hold them up to the light.They are totally unusable because the dragons are raised and circle each piece of the tea set,but very beautifull,I have a tea pot,suger bowl,milk jug six plates.saucers and cups and one large plate,all my old school friends thought it was special

  9. Cyndy says:

    I have a couple of the cups with the lady, the print is black flowers and it has a saucer with it. I wondered how old this is? My mothers godmother gave them to her, my mother is now 85 and her godmother died in the 1960’s. Any info on these would be appreciated. Thanks

  10. vanessa alvarado says:

    hey i have one two my husband just bought one for me
    and i fell in love with it when i got it
    so please e-mail me
    back i heard the set i have is older than WWII

  11. Licia says:

    My grandmother also has a full set (of 8 or 10) including the rest of the tea service, pot and all. Hers are dark blue with a similar design on the outside of all the pieces. It is a lovely set and we are in the process of passing her wears on to the rest of the family because she has had to move into a smaller home.

    It’s nice to see there are other sets out there. I too am looking for more information about them.

  12. elaine sanders says:

    I have a tea cup set with the dragons and snake on the outside withe the dragons. In the bottome of the fup is a Japanese or chinese lady, Where should I take it to get it appraise or to get the history of it. I live is St Louis, Mo.

  13. rose arno says:

    I too have such a tea set purchased in an antique shop in Liverpool in 1971 for £7 which included the glass china cabinet itcame in! I still have it- it’s at lease eight of everything including two lots of tea plates- never been used fo ear of destroying the pattern,

  14. Heather says:

    My friend owns the same tea set only in black and gold. I cant read the number on the bottom but it does say Mori China made from Japan it says on the bottom of it. It also has the picture you have on your cup. I would love to find the same set if possilble …please let me know what you found and if you know where I can buy this tea set.

    Thanks Heather

  15. I also have the Japanese tea set (tea pot, sugar, creamer, cups, saucers) with the raised dragon and nude lady in the bottom of the tea cups. Brought back from Japan in late 40’s. Did you find out anything about the value or history?

  16. Eun-Hee Kang says:

    I have the same set, it’s from Japan but I have no clue who the maker is.
    Sadly two plates and a cup are broken.

  17. tracy says:

    hi i have a similar tea set i know its from the war and from japan as my grandfather bought it back when he was in the navy, do you know if they are worth anything as mine is stuck in the attic

  18. cheryl says:

    I have six cups and saucers a tea pot a creamer and a incense bowl I think? the cups all have the geisha girl on the bottom of the cups. did you ever find out where they came from? I am very curious

  19. Kit Cahill says:

    i have a teaset consisting of a teapot, creamer, sugar and 6 cups with a cherry blossom landscape and geisha girl in the bottom when held up to the light, that says Kutoni China, Made in Japan. my mother bought it in Japan when we were stationed there in 1953. it’s extremely sentimental to me since my mother just passed away this year. i would never sell it but would love to know what it’s worth. anyone out there have a ballpark estimate?

  20. Gina says:

    I have also a set like this very interesting with the beautiful face of Geisha they called. I want to know if there is anybody could help me to know whta is the history and how much would be? thanks.

  21. Xerraire says:

    It has come to my attention that a similar tea set was on E-bay with a starting bid of $50.00

    Here is the link »|65%3A1|39%3A1|240%3A1318|301%3A1|293%3A1|294%3A50

  22. Wabty says:

    my family owns something like this. Ther’es a lady at the bottom of the cup, and the whole set has no stamps or anything! Ours was made in Japan. 🙂

  23. TONI says:

    it is a very RARE AND DELICATE form of japaenese pottery and you are very special to own such a thing … the story goes that a corcacian woman had bought such a thing as a tea set from Japan ..she took it through customs and they knew how much it cos t..this was in 1977 .. the customs officer knew how rare this was and so said she should pay a very heavy duty on this tea set… she proceeded to take the tea set and smash it …there was another in her case and she smashed that too…and yet the second tea set did not smash and the customs officer kept it ….to all people who own this tea set …belive me its RARE …very rare only a few have been made, and if you don t believe me just go to japan and try and find one.. i tried to find one for my mum ……IMPOSSIBLE..

  24. Shannon says:

    I inherited a set from my great uncle. He brought it back during WWII. It has the lady Geisha face in the bottom. The set itself is a cobalt blue with dragons, and the tea pot spout is actually the dragon’s neck, and the tea would pour out his mouth. I think it was missing a piece when he brought it over, and I think there might be a crack in one also, but it’s been a while since I actually examined it. Even if it’s worth nothing, it’s a special treasure to me. I just love it. I do wish I knew more about it, though.

  25. Maureen says:

    Hi. I am so excited to find these comments about the tea sets. I also have one that my father brought back from Japan after the war. It is black with gold designs. However, mine has a unique set of two little plates where one side fits the tea cup and the other to hold the food. The marking on the bottom is quite similar but not exactly the same. There is no geisha on the bottom of the cups, but, I do have a little cup and saucer with the geisha and no marking, that my mum picked up somewhere. I have it displayed in my China cabinet, and really enjoy showing these to my friends and visitors. It has sentimental value but I would really like to know more about it and the value. Anyone had an appraisal done?

  26. Jane says:

    Glad to read about these tea sets. I have one that my father’s cousin brought back after WW II. It is white with gold Japanese landscape and has the geishas in the bottom of each cup. I have six dessert plates, six tea cups and saucers, tea pot, creamer and sugar. It is in perfect condition. I have grown sons and one is about to become a father for the first time. If the baby is a girl I will give her the tea set! I have no idea what it is worth. Does anyone?

  27. Shannon says:

    I have this exact tea set that my Grandfather left me when he died. I don’t know anything about it, but I was searching online to see if I could find anything and I came across this blog. Did you ever find anything out? If so please email me at


  28. Carmel says:

    I have a tea set with the Geisher girl/Japanese Princess in the bottom of each cup too! mine is of a dragon design and I was told the Makers name on the bottom is translated to “HAPPY”

  29. Carmel says:

    OOPS! Sorry in my posting I was wrong it does not say “Happy” it says “LUCKY” on the Makers Stamp…..

    tea set consisting of teacups with a dragon emblem on each cup, sugar bowl and creamer (dragon colors from top to bottom are – Red, Gold and Green) and a raised Geisha lithophane that I believe is the “Worried Geisha” at the bottom of each cup with an m shaped signature inside by the rim. Also on the outside of the cups is a large red Chinese mark (looks like maybe another signature).

    The Sugar Bowl and the Creamer both have the hallmark word “LUCKY” instead of the word “LUCKY CHINA”.

    pre-world war II.

    Here are the particulars for each item:

    – sugar bowl, 6 oz – height 3 inches, diameter 2.5 inches, handle-spread width 5 inches

    – creamer, 4.5 oz – height 3 inches, diameter 2.5 inches, handle-spread width 3.5 inches

    – tea cup, 1.5 oz – height 1.5 inches, top diameter 3 inches, bottom diameter 1.5 inches

  30. Maureen says:

    I think these sets are a lot more abundant that I first thought. It seems that they were produced in large quantities after the war and alot of military people bought them. They are a very beautiful collector item and I wouldn’t part with mine. I am going to take mine in for an evaluation and I will post what I am quoted.

  31. GiGi says:

    As a child I lived in Malaya (over 50) years ago…My mother brought two sets, one blue with dragons which has wide cups – the other has much smaller cups with a beautiful scenery of the mountains painted in a lovely light green and white – The cups to both sets have the Geisha’s face in the bottom. – Perhaps in another 50 years we will all have something really rare – but for now when I hold a piece – I can only try to imagine who crafter such a fine and delicate piece of art.

  32. aNGELICA says:


  33. Katie says:

    Hi all,

    My grandad and I are in the process of clearing some old china and came across a full tea set and coffee set with a geisha face in the bottom of the teacups. the patterns on the outside show a landscape that has deep blue and read colours with people farming and another japanese woman. on the bottom of the teapot and jug is written King China – Made in Japan. anymore information about what we have found would be much appreciated. we’re in Bedfordshire England. Thanks x

  34. Karen Persico says:

    I have a tea pot, creamer and sugar and 5 cups with 6 saucers. The cups are extremely delicate and I’m surprised only one has been broken. The design is black and white scenery; there are no markings on the bottom of any of the pieces. I purchased the set in 1966 in San Francisco “Chinatown”. Mine have the head of the geisha which appears when the cup is held up to the light. I’m in the process of moving and trying to decide what to keep so went looking for the possible worth of the set, but haven’t found any estimates.

  35. Donna says:

    I too have a tea set marked MORI China on the bottom. My set has six of the cups with the geisha’s face, six saucers, six dessert plates, tea pot with cover, creamer and sugar bowl with cover. I’d love to find out how much it’s worth.

  36. Jennifer says:

    I was so excited when I found this blog!! My mom found a set in a thrift store and knew how much I loved Japanese things.I couldn’t get over it.Anyways,I have a tea pot with a bamboo handle,3 tea cups with the geisha girl in the brown with the the two birds inside also,sugar dish without the lid 🙁 ,6 small plates,6 dessert plates.
    I did some research on my mark and found they were possibly Nippon Tokusei from the end of the 50’s and the mark is a cover up of the showa reign?? Anybody heard anything about this set??


  37. smiley says:

    I have A tea set with the Geisha girl in the bottom of just the cups. My Grandmother lived in the hills of Pa. and as far as I know no one was in the wars. My Mother gave them to me. I have read alot about them ,,but no one seams to beable to gaive a price as to wha they are worth, I saw a set on E-Bay for 3000.00. My Grandmother would be about 101 if she was still here. Have no clue how she got the set.

  38. jack says:

    I have a full tea set with gasha girl pictures in the bottom of the cups. The designs on the tea set are islands with trees etc. This was brought my my uncle for my mum and dad as a wedding present in the second world war. Can anyone tell me the value of the set or where i can get a true valuation of the set!


  39. Peter says:

    We also have a complete set, except for 1 broken cup, of the
    Lucky white with green, gold and red dragon. We have 5 cups, 6 saucers, 6 teaplates, sugar bowl with lid, creamer and teapot. They were purchased sometime around WWII by my wife’s father. He also purchased another set with various pictures of birds on it. This set only has some Chinese/Japanese characters on the bottom and no geisha in the cups – 6 cups, saucers and teaplates, 1 larger serving plate and a small teapot. We now live in Canada and have a couple of dealers as friends so wen will see if we can get some kind of valuation over the next week.

  40. jay says:

    we got one of the cup and saucer from our (93) aunt it has drgons on it as well as the lady at the bottom of of the cup does anyone have any idea of the value.dont want to sell it just want to know.

  41. Barbara says:

    Has anyone found out how much the tea set is worth??

  42. Barbara Ashton says:

    We have a coffee set with the Geisha face – 6 cups & saucers; small jug; sugar bowl & a tall coffee pot & lid.
    My dad was in the Royal Navy in the 50’s & I think he brought it back from either China or Japan.
    It has orange & gold dragons on it.
    Anyone else got a coffee set like this?

  43. margaret says:

    iv a chinese tea set,it was my mother,shes been dead for 18 years,she left me it,teapot,side plates,cups they are wafer thin with a picture of a gesha lady at the bottom,saucers,milk jug,would anyone have a idea the value.

  44. Amanda says:

    I have a set that my mother gave me. I have no idea where she got it. It has a village painted on it in silver. The village consists of 2 huts, a bridge and a water wheel. There are trees and mountains in the background. I have a six place setting of dessert plate, saucer and cups with Geisha in bottom, along with sugar, creamer and tea pot. The bottom says kutoni china, hand painted, made in Japan. I think they are lovely! I keep them in my china cabinet.

  45. finallycruising says:


    Also check eBay. The majority of lithophane cups sell for very little.

  46. Pamela says:

    Hello, I have the tea set with a different japanese lady on the bottom of the tea cup. It has the gold trim but the pattern of the village is done in colour. Our father was in the Royal Canadian Navy and was overseas during the latter part of the 1940 and early 1950’s. He purchased the set during that period and he said the picture in the bottom of the tea cup was that of the artist’s wife. In addition to the tea cups he purchased a complete dinner set, platter, bowls and tea set. Has similar markings as those above – the pattern above may have worn a bit as the downward stroke in the first character is longer in our set. We used our dinner set for every special occassion growing, birthdays, Christmas and Thanksgiving. My mother passed them over to me many years ago and they were used a couple of times since then but otherwise stayed in a box in an attic so to speak. I will be passing them over to our youngest son and he and his family will be using them for special dinner parties. For all of us that have them – they have travelled a great distance during a very turmultuous time in the history of the world. Personally, if anyone kind find out the names of he family or business that created these beautiful works of art I would love to know so that I can get in touch with them and see if they would like to have a little of the history their forefathers created but in their homes again.

  47. migmogs says:


    we also have 2 geisha girl sets

    the first set is a cobalt blue dragon ware set.with the wide eyed giesha girl in the bottoms of the cups

    we also have matt black ,very fine ,china tea set embelished in 24 carat gold.the geisha girl in the cups is the flower geisha girl

    is the black set rarer than the dragon ware set?

    and can you put links to pictures on here?

    thanx in advance


  48. migmogs says:

    By the way Barb

    your Geisha Girl is known of as the Quizical Geisha Girl

    for the ones with nude lithophanes…..Nude Lithoohanes are very rare and worth money


  49. Xerraire says:

    I think I just recently found out that I had a quizical Geisha Girl.

    Migmogs, if you have a URL to the links, you can go ahead and put them here.

  50. Barry says:

    Hi all, my father had a set of the tea and coffee complete, my older brother claimed them when he died, I woud like to find out whereI could obtain info plus purchase if possible.

  51. Xerraire says:

    I’ve seen sets on E-bay, try there!
    They weren’t very expensive.

  52. SpicyOne says:

    I just found this site and am thrilled. My set is grays/white/blue with a tall pot (about 8), sugar bowl & pot w/covers, creamer, six cups/saucers. My geisha is rather serene. The question that several have asked is how or where to have something like this appraised. All I know is that my uncle was a Flying Tiger in China during WWII, and he brought it to Mom. Any information or referral to appraiser would be appreciated.

  53. ajdua says:

    Nice tea and coffee complete

  54. Lynette says:

    My Grandmother has a set with the Japanese lady at the bottom of the cup – her design is of a gold dragon with red markings. They bought it in Port Said, Egypt when they were migrating from Italy to Australia in the early 1950s.

  55. reed cook says:

    My wife has me looking for value of these types of cups and saucers also. her father came home from WW II with them. it appears to be the same giesha girl. but we also have a different one as well. we dont want to sell, just want to know if they are valuable.

  56. Deborah says:

    I have several lithophane tea sets. There is a web cite – Helen’s Japanese Lithophanes. She has actual photo’s of different lithophanes and seperates them noting those easier to find to the more rare. Very interesting. One of my sets is the Loving Giesha’s (two Giesha’s).
    There are a number of sets on e-bay with a wide range of prices. I just searched on Lithophane.
    Hope this helps.

  57. Deborah says:
    Above is the web address that takes you directly to the thumb nail pictures that identify the lithophane design by name, this can help identify which lithophane you have.

  58. Pete says:

    Hi i have six cups and saucers that are in mint condition they are white with a silver patern on them with the ladys face in the bottom of the cups, My dad was in the Royal Navy, And in the early 1950 he brought them back from from singapore.

  59. Kerri says:

    My mum has a beautiful Coffee set with 6 teacups and saucers, a tall coffee pot, milk jug and sugar pot all in mint condition. On the bottom the mark is in gold paint saying ‘Swan China’ and ‘made in japan’ with a painted swan. The cups are really thin and delicate and there is a geisha lithophane in the bottom. The scenery is bamboo, boats, and little houses near the lake. I have photos, and i think this set is amazing. If anyone knows anything of the origin or markings please let me know as i would love to learn its history and cannot find this on the web yet.
    Thank you

  60. Dee says:

    I have a set but this came from my dad when he served national service in cyprus he sent a set home to his mother – its very ugly I have a Tea pot coffee pot 6 plates 6 cups and saucers all the handles are tails to a dragon or a snake and the heads end up on the top of all the lids to the tea pot and the cooffee pot, and its the most ugly set you have ever seen with rich gold and orange paint work, at the bottom of each item you will find a geisha girl

    Not sure if this is worth anything but was given to me as i played with this as a child

  61. It is either called “Kutani” or “NikoNiko china Japan occupied” which was when Japan Occupied China. You can find it on ebay by either names. I’ve seen lots of different patterns: Dragons, Geisha, Leaf Patterns, Mt. Fuji, so you’ll have to find your own pattern and missing pieces by clicking through them all. I have also googled them and other sellers from around the world have appeared. The marks on the bottoms dictate the time period and the website that I have enclosed goes into that in more detail. Kudos to the fellow who listed the Lithophane website in the above comments. I had not known about that. Yes, the military fellows brought them home to their families. I hear you can’t find 1 set in China. They even sold them on the base…

  62. Anna Chris says:

    Leider kann ich kein englisch, dank “Google-Ãœbersetzung” konnte ich alles gut lesen.
    Habe viel über mein Tee-Service mit dem Geishakopf gefunden. Danke dafür!
    Viele Grüße aus Germany
    Ann Chris

  63. neil osgood says:

    My Mum and Dad are having to move and downsize and have just been given a similar coffee set. My Dad got it when he was doing his National service in Hong Kong in 1956. It still has the reciept and cost 2000 Yen. He also got another tea set but I have always adored this one since I was a kid because of the faces in the bottom. Not sure how much they are worth but I wouldn’t part with it.

  64. alyson cuff says:

    after going to the above website, i have learned that there are 26 known different single gieshas in the cup bottoms, the first 9 are more common though still rare,They are the sad, quizzical,garland,common,pensive { thats the set i have } ribboned,wide eyed,simple and simple with garland. The next 8 are rarer to find. They are serene,private,vulnerable,sweetfaced,chopstick no1, chopstick no 2,worried,and daisyflowers. The final 9 are extremely rare, They are elaborate,crysanthemum,stylized,anxious,left facing,knowing,downwards gazing, with plaits,lost in thought,and double flowers. There is only 1 in the entire world with the giesha outline only. Now what i would like to know is who is she ? Also there are 2 known designs of the double gieshas, they are smiling and loving they are extremeley rare .

  65. nathanial says:

    i have a full black and gold set so lite and and has the lady in the bottom. i inherited them and thought nothing of them untill today. how much are they worth? i have no use for them

  66. karensue says:

    i also have a set that is very ornate and the woman is in the bottom…this is from the world war II.

    i would like to find out about it can anyone help?

  67. Rose, Kent UK says:

    I have a full set 6 cups, saucers, six plates, tea pot, sugar bowl with lid and jug in a blossom design, which was passed to me by my Gran in the 70’s. My mother has a set which is a vivid green with raised dragons in a bone like material. These were both brought back by my Uncle in the 1950’s who was in the Navy. It would be interesting to know more about them and what they are worth, although I certainly wouldnt part with mine.

  68. John says:

    I have something similar as well ,I got 4 tea cups with golden palm trees and house with an image of a lady at the buttom when shown on a light . and I have 6 saucers with a company name called MEIJYE CHINA .. My Father was a UN Soldier during the Korean War and i beleive he visited Japan where he purchased it ..



  69. Laura says:

    Hi Guys,
    I was just looking through all your interesting posts and finds. I am currently finding information out about a kutani china coffee set which i will soon be selling. It also has the geisha at the bottom of the cups like yours Barb.
    I have come across a couple of interesting sites through my searches which i though might help you find out how rare your pieces are, or when they were made.
    The first is this gives you information on which geisha/figure is at the bottom of your item.
    And the second is this gives you information on the marks on the bottom and when it may have been made.
    The third is …The runner of this website is a collector of Kutani and he can answer alot of questions on the pieces.
    Hope this has helped…..

  70. heather says:

    my set is now incomplete since the cat jumped on it. but cups show the sad geisha. i do want to sell the intact pieces i have. not dragon, plates have woman with men on either side of her. very colorful. beaded

  71. vanoliza says:

    BARB, my grandmother passed away and my mother ended up with a cup and saucer set that my grandfather sent back from the Korean war in the 1950s i think its Kutani it is a hand painted set of mountains and a valley with river and glazed over with the same exact mark on the back center and has the same cold trim!

  72. Angela says:

    Hello Barb,
    My mother and father have a full Tea service identical to yours with the lady at the bottom. My father served in the Korean war and whilst over there had it sent back to my mother. I will ask him if he can remember where he purchased it from. He still has an excellent memory!

  73. Jess says:

    Hi Barb,

    I have 2 tea cups and 3 saucers from my Oma (german for grandmother). She was living in Germany at the time she got these but do not know much about them. I have one teacup that has a sticker on it saying MFR: YASHIKA TRADING CO LTD NAGOY JAPAN. When I saw them I was very interested in finding out what these antiques were actually worth if anything.


  74. Raoul says:

    I have read that lithophanes contain high lead content. So, should not be used or handled much.

  75. Karen says:

    I have inherited a cup and saucer with the geisha girl in the bottem of the cup. However, mine is white with silver. Bottom of the saucer reads kutoni china HAND PAINTED JAPAN. I love the set, its unique. Any idea of value?

  76. Maryalice says:

    My husband and I inherited two lithopane (sad geisha) tea cups and two matching saucers. The other tea set is not lithopane, but it is dragonware.. a teapot, sugar bowl, smaller teapot or something, two cups, and four saucers.. it is brown, the tea pours out of the dragons mouth. These are going to the Antiques Roadshow that is showing in El Paso in June 2011. Thanks to your website, we now have some idea of what these are worth. Thank you so much. It is great to finally find out about these items. Good luck to any one who has them.

  77. maria says:

    Does anybody know why n my lithopane the geisha image is inside the flower? is it a Flower Geisha?

  78. masha says:

    does anyone knows what geisha’s portrait inside the flower means?

  79. Precious says:

    I have some and my mom has some my sister and I use to play with them as children. Some are broken my Dad was in the Navy in 1950’s late. I have a set of tea and plates for cups my husband found in a house for me. Iove them. I wonder what they are worth. I have a Tea Set.

  80. Lajmet says:

    A very beautiful set. I LIKE IT :).

  81. mars05 says:

    I have inherited the same sort of tea set,so has any body had a value done?

  82. I saw a cup like that when I was a teenager, and always wondered how they managed to get such a perfect picture into the bottom of a tea cup.
    Beautiful work.

  83. Patty Bonnifield says:

    My father was in the Navy and in 1950 returned home from the Korean conflict with a beautiful Japanese tea set. It has a large tea pot, creamer and sugar bowl with a set of six cups and saucers with small serving plates. The cups have the picture of the geisha in the bottom. The set is Dragon Ware, all hand painted w/brown background and rich colors with gold accents. It is pristine. He also brought home a statue made of china whos kimono? matches in color and design. He is holding a child in his arms and we have always affectionally called him “curly” since he is bald.
    I saw an exact copy of curly online for sale for a price of $500.00. I am sure the tea sets complete in pristine condition have value and I’m guessing around $500.00 and up.

  84. Dorilea says:

    Thank you for creating this page Xerraire. I have been doing research on these tea sets for 20 years. My father purchased one for his mother and it is very precious to me.

    The lithopanes are what make the sets more or less valuable. There were several girls used for the images. The images range from rare to common. Yours, like mine is considered common. Don’t let that fool you! These sets sell in antique shops for about $500.00. If you take care of that tea set, your daughter may enjoy more than some tea party memories when she’s my age (55).

    The sets are very delicate and break easily. This will make them more rare over time as sets are broken or destroyed because owners don’t know what they have.

    Thanks again for the post. I enjoy every opportunity to think about my Dad as a young man in the Navy purchasing a special gift for my grandmother.

  85. I have bought the individual cups for about 20-25.00 each at Antique shops.

  86. Ann Sullivan says:

    I am in Cardiff, Wales, UK and my late husband did his National Service in Singapore in the late fifties. He brought back a full teaset and coffee set – fine white china with a gold scene and a geisha girl in the bottom of each cup – think one piece is broken – have 35 pieces in all complete with coffee pot, tea pot, sugar and creamers – just wondering if it’s worth anything

  87. moira says:

    i am really interested in these comments, I have a tea set with peacocks on and a lot of gold in. it has the geisha girls head inside andwhen we were young my dad told us if you put the cup to your ear you could hear her singing. He was in korea in the army, and brought this set back before i was born. They purchased another the same in britain in a junk shop, and also found a coffee set the same and bought that. I have one set, my 2 sisters have the other, all in tact. all whole tea sets. we have been trying to find out if they are worth anything, but as there are so many around i dont think so. i suppose it depends on whether you have an unusual design i suppose.

  88. han says:

    I have a tea set similar to yours only its got like an island patten on the outside and just like yours when you hold it up to the light you see the womens face at the bottom of the cups. I would love to know wheather or not it holds some significence.

  89. Pat B says:

    I have been in the antique business and one of the reasons I love it so much is that there is always something to learn. I bought a saki set at an auction recently and no one eles bid so I picked this set up for just a few bucks. I was getting it ready to sell, we sell in Florida each year, mostly for fun, and I noticed that 2 of the little cups had tiny chips, so I threw them out in the recycle bin, thank God. Well I noticed that the bottoms had rough surfaces inside the cups so I just put it up to by desk lamp to see if this was a manufacturers flaw and I could’nt make this image out so I kept turning the cup around, BINGO!, I saw the image and was so Facinated, my mouth just dropped open and then I remembered the 2 little cups I threw away, out to the garbage with rubber gloves and into the recycle bin I went, I found them, I started to look on the internet to learn about them and that is when I found this

  90. judy foster says:

    I too have the peacock design with the simple garland geisha, but mine has no marks. It has a sticker that reads Sanford Japan. Is it real or copy.

  91. Debbie Carr says:

    I have only just found that the tea service I inherited about 15 years ago is Lithophane – I’d never come across anything like it before and was absolutely blown away as a child!!
    I haven’t seen any mention of the kissing couple in the Chinese sets here but that’s what I have (though one of the saucers was damaged before I got it).
    I often wonder about the value of it and wonder if anyone can suggest anywhere in the UK I might be able to find a valuation for it!
    It has been a joy to look through the thumbnails – thank you!!!

  92. Pam says:

    I have 2 or 3 tea cups with the Geisha in the bottom. My Nana had a tea cup set and I have it now. She has them from all over the world. People would go on vacations and bring her back a tea cup. These are some of the most fascinating!! As I’ve looked things up about these little cups I’ve found that they are made by Kutani….it means Nine Valleys and is an actual place. Here is a wonderful historical link:

    I was just trying to see if I could find an exact match but I haven’t as yet. Mine has a dragon on the cup and on the saucer…..what looks like W’s…..I did find one dinner plate but the dragon looked more fierce and had a red tongue sticking out….mine does not. My sister suggested that I should look on the bottoms of my cups/saucers and see if I could find them on the net. Phew! What a job that will be. lol I would NEVER sell my Nana’s precious items but it would be nice to know if they are replica’s or the real thing.

    As for the Japanese symbols above…..they are not upside down. My cups have the same symbols and the bottom symbol is to represent a house….I’m not sure what the top symbol is.

  93. Pam says:

    Here is another link that everyone can look through…..I only got through the first one so far. lol But there are thousands of the Kutani porcelain in this site! Have fun. 🙂

  94. Gail says:

    I also have inherited my Grandmothers teaset. I was looking furiously for any indication of what it was when I came across this blog. I am so delighted to see I am not the only one that will be passing on these to my grandchildren and having a good time with them (tea parties) while still in possession of them. I don’t want to know what mine are worth( if anything) because I don’t want to be afraid to party with them. Mine also has dragons on them as Pam’s does. However mine has the dragon also as the handle and spout of the teapot, the handles of the cups, the lid of the sugar jar and the spout of the creamer. I haven’t seen anybody at the bottom of the cups but now I am going to look closer. Mine also has “hobnail” paint on it. Thanks for letting me know there is a vast society of us “tea totalers” out there. Keep on sharing

  95. Jackie says:

    I have a tea set with the geisha in the bottom of the cup too. mine is all silver coloured.I have 6 cups and saucers, milk jug, sugar bowl and tea pot which is tall( maybe more like coffee pot) My husband inherited it from his Mother. I would love to find out more about it.

  96. Nicol says:

    I hae the exact one! I have one teacup and a saucer. Were you able to learn more about the maker and its origins?

  97. Samantha says:

    it’s korean!!!!
    & from what I’ve heard, no one knows a damn thing about them…they could be VERY vaulable or they could be worth nothing.
    I have a friend whose great grandfather brought the same type of tea cup back from the korean war..

  98. G Gregory says:

    My wife recieved a coffee set from her uncle which included a pot, creamer, sugar bowl, 6 cups & saucers. He purchased these back in the early fiftys while out in the far east serving in the navy. The cups have a geisha girls face inside as described in some of these other post’s. We have searched online to try and get a rough valuation and have concluded the entire set is probably worth around £50 – £70. There are a few on Ebay but they do not seem to sell very quick. Finally ask yourself the question if you have received these through an elderly relative. Do you like them enough as to spend money and buy such a collection instead,I think probably not!

  99. MIke B says:

    I am intreged by your tea set as I also have one the same plus a full coffee set,
    I know that these were made late 40s early 50s and were mainly bought by service personell visiting Japan on leave during the Korean war, my dad bought back many things Japenese but alas as time goes on theses are all i have left

  100. lynda cullen says:

    i have a complete tea set 6 saucers, 6 tea cups sugar bowl, milk jug and tea pot, all in excellent condition. Mine has lady at the bottom of cups, all handles and spouts are of snake design.
    would love to find history of this item, it was handed down to me from my mother who received it from her brother after he came back from tour of duty in japan.. We have had this in my family since i was a very young girl, came out of china cabinet once a year for us to admire, then it was washed and put back into the cabinet.

  101. Janet says:

    Hi there,

    I have a Japanese tea set too with a Geisha on the bottom of the cups. Can anyone please tell me if these are worth anything, and if so where to sell them. I picked this up many years ago, and it has been sat in the loft. Thanks Jan

  102. meg dillon says:

    hi my mum had teaset ,which I fell heir to, when I made enquiry on value was told because they were so fragile were put away and hundreds lying in attics so of little value ,so guess my kids will dump when they get round to clearing my junk when i am away

  103. Jayne Davies says:


  104. Lesley Wheeler says:

    I have one also. Given to me by my parents. My father bought it back from Malaysia in his Army rucksack after serving there in the 60’s. Mine is Black, Grey and Gold dragon pattern. Very beautiful.

  105. Hi, I have a similar tea set with a geisha in the bottom of each cup and the dragos are raised as well. But the set is white and the geishas are sitting in a garden where the one lady is kneeling before the other. The logo at the back of the sausers are “Lilac China”. I have looked on about every website I could find and saw lot of sets almost the same but not precisely the same. Is this tea set worth anything.

  106. Rhonda Lane says:

    Hi. I have a similar tea set. It is green with the dragon.
    The geisha inside is Garland Geisha. I purchased mine in the western highlands province of Papua New Guinea at a trade store. In Wabag. In 1972.

  107. carl young says:

    hello all

    I am an antiques dealer with about 10 years of experience, these sets were mass produced around the turn of the century 1880-1920ish, they are called eggshell porcelain because they are very delicate like an eggshell, they are very fine but sadly not very valuable.

    maybe 50 pounds max for a full tea set.

    if the hand painting was better around the sides then they would be worth a bit more. but if you like them and they are a part of your family history then keep them, you never know the Japanese might start looking for their antiques back just like the Chinese have recently which would drive the prices up

  108. Mary Lou says:

    I have a full set that is very similar would love to know the history my dad brought it back From WWII I treasure it

  109. Hi there,

    I just spoke to a Japanese friend of mine. These tea cups were traditionally used to drink green tea or brown tea. When you look through the tea water, the image stands out stronger.

    Hope this info. helps.


  110. Michael Coleman says:


    If you are interested in selling them please contact me at My wife had a similar set broken and we have been looking for a replacement for a few years.

  111. John Rock says:

    Hi I have a number of cups with matching saucers and tea pot, with the Geisha girl in the bottom they were my Mothers her brother brought them back from the war, is there a value to them?



  112. Frances Margaret Hiatt says:

    I have a cup saucer and plate painted in Browns and litter colour of Mount Fuji in the background a lake with 3 sailing boats in the foreground and 2 houses on the left with fur or pine trees behind. On the back of the plate and saucer are 2 Japanese markings the cup has no markings but has the Geisha girl head inside the cup wide eyed and sad . The cup is very fine but the saucer and plate are a little heaver could you tell me a little history of the age and where it was made .It was wonderful reading all the comments waiting to hear from you regards Frances

  113. Yvonne Egan says:

    I am in Lancashire, England. I have a black and grey set with the raised dragon, some gold trim around the rims and handles. Also, a serene Geisha girl face at the bottom of the cups. It says Made in Japan at the bottom of the coffee pot, and something else on the sugar bowl and coffee pot in black which has worn off. There are 6 cups and saucers. My Uncle bought it for my Grandmother in the late 60’s when he was serving in the army in Aden. I love this beautiful little set, and I’ve enjoyed reading about everyone else’s set in this blog.

  114. Susan says:

    hi all
    My mother in law passed away four years ago and she has a Japanese tea set.
    This was left to my daughter as she was the only one that has always asked her Nan if she could have.
    It is so delicate and at the bottom of each cup is a image of a geisha girl,
    I know this tea set to be at least 80-80 yrs old and it was given to s friend of my mum in laws in the First World War in exchange for food/medical supplies.
    Be very carefull with them as they don’t like change in temperature and can crack and break.
    We no longer have a full set because of this.
    I would love to get the remaining parts valued now do we can get them insured properly.
    Many thanks
    Susan, Barwell England

  115. Beverly says:

    My half-brother brought two sets back from the Korean War, one for his mom and one for my mom. I have my mom’s set and my sister-in-law has his mom’s set. I’m sure he bought each set in Korea, and they were new at the time. The cups in our sets are coffee cup style rather than the style shown in your pictures….I also would like a good appraisal on them.

  116. Bob says:

    These are commonly referred to as lithophane cups, and as Kutani ware. The cups you have are coffee demitasse cups. Traditionally sets were made for use with green or brown tea consumption in mind. While a boom in sale of these sets occurred as a result of GI trading in Japan (hence the production for use with coffee), the sets were produced from mid-late 1800’s through to the mid 1960’s.

    There are 2 main brands of these sets – Hayasi and Kutani (the latter far more prolific in number of designs). A set of pictures of the various designs can be found at by searching for one or the other of these brands. Some designs are less common that others. There are hundreds of (perhaps 500) Kutani designs. They tend to use more simple / basic colour sets (e.g. black and gold). Hayasi has some 50 designs and often uses some quite vibrant colours, although some simple designs and more basic colour set designs as well. A short history of the Kutani porcelain house can be found here : A set of the various lithophane images used can be found here :

    The sets with dragons on then are often referred to generically as Dragonware. Some information is available here : regarding production methods and value.

  117. Ashlee says:

    I have some cups saucers coffee pot and tea pot the same as this. My grandfather brought it back with him when he got home from Japan during ww2.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *