Since Japanese meals normally include several small amounts of each food per person, this means that each person has a place setting with several different small dishes and bowls for holding individual food and condiments. The emphasis in a Japanese table setting is on enhancing the appearance of the food, which is partially achieved by showing contrasts between the items.
It is sold either by the piece or as a matched set for a number of diners, normally four, six, eight, or twelve place settings. Individual pieces, such as those needed as replacement pieces for broken dishes, can be procured from 'open stock' inventory at shops, or from antique dealers if the pattern is no longer in production.
Tableware are the dishes or dishware used for setting a table, serving food and dining. It includes cutlery, glassware, serving dishes and other items for practical as well as decorative purposes. The quality, nature, variety and number of objects varies according to culture, religion, number of diners, cuisine and occasion. For example, Middle Eastern, Indian or Polynesian food culture and cuisine sometimes limits tableware to serving dishes, using bread or leaves as individual plates. Special occasions are usually reflected in higher quality tableware. The introduction of hot drinks, mostly but not only tea and coffee, as a regular feature of eating and entertaining, led to a new class of tableware. In its most common material, various types of pottery, this is often called teaware.
Table ware can be made of other materials such as wood, pewter, latten, silver, gold, glass, acrylic and plastic. Before it was possible to purchase mass-produced tableware, it was fashioned from available materials, such as wood. Industrialisation and developments in ceramic manufacture made inexpensive washable tableware available.
By the mid 18th century matching sets of European 'china' were usual for all the vessels, although these often did not include plates for cake etc. until the next century. This move to local china was rather delayed by the tendency of some early types of European soft-paste porcelain to break if too hot liquid was poured into it. Japanese ceramic tableware is an industry that is many centuries old. Unlike in Western cultures, where tableware is often produced and bought in matching sets, Japanese tableware is set on the table so that each dish complements the type of food served in it.
Each bowl and dish may have a different shape, colour or pattern. Place settings for service à la russe dining are arranged according to the number of courses in the meal. With the first course, each guest at the table begins by using the tableware placed on the outside of place setting. As each course is finished the guest leaves the used cutlery on the used plate or bowl, which are removed from the table by the server. To begin the next course, the diner uses the next item on the outside of the place setting, and so on. Forks are placed on the left of a dinner plate, knives to the right of the plate, and spoons to the outer right side of the place setting. Table setting practices in Japan and other parts of East Asia have been influenced by Chinese table setting customs.