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Japanese Boxes, We Like?

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One thing I have found myself attracted to is old Japanese boxes, plain wood, bound in iron, lacquered, etc, from simple and practical up to fancy. Well, not so fancy; the old purse kept my own feet pretty much firmly planted on the ground. 

 

Sadly they seem not to be highly treasured in Japan today; many must have been lost over the years to neglect or whatever. Lacquer is a good example of something really practical and beautiful, expensive when new, and yet so unloved when second-hand.

 

Japanese houses were for the main part without furniture and as I understand it, necessary objects were fitted by the house builder carpenter, not by separate furniture makers. Only richer people could afford to have moveable objects around the house, so furniture was a sign of growing wealth.

 

(Should we keep chests of drawers to a separate thread, or allow them in here too?)

 

If anyone wants to add comments or photos to this thread, please do. I was contemplating smallish boxes, say up to knee-height or the size for a set of armour. Oh, and katana-bako are OK! 

 

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This one has a long single drawer inside with an iron ring pull, large enough for a Tanto and koshirae. Not sure what its original purpose would have been. Has original key.

 

No brushwork information or date, but reeks of Edo to me. Perhaps early 1800s with that type of lock?

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Piers,

 

There is a great love for these, just not so much in Japan.

There are premium shops in San Fran and NYC importing them and selling them. Some people collect the highest one ones depending upon their purpose and little features like whether they have original iron wheels. While not as deep a topic as Nihonto or Netsuke, it certainly has its appreciation.

 

Until we settle down in a major city, wife has restricted me to 2.

I also have 3 antique kake. I only have photos of this one, which is dated on the bottom with the shop of manufacture and the date 1753.

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lol. I found that painting on eBay back in 1998 or 1999.

It came in a paper bag crudely taped shut and had to be cleaned by a friend who works in restorations.

 

Most people never notice that painting among the others in the house, but it is one of my favorite ones.

Most visitors to the house comment on the European paintings, though the American, Chinese, and Japanese are the best we have.

As we become more 'spartan' in our living style, I'll probably sell off the European ones. They're shlock.

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Curran, your Katanakake with mid-Edo date of 1753 is such a nice find. And the little ring-pull (copper/iron?) drawer for cleaning equipment makes it extra special. (The painting is not bad, either!)

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The wife is definitely a restriction on collecting such things, but she went overboard on chests of drawers so that gave me some leeway/ammunition.

Tidy little collection there, Tony. Loving the handles on your chest too!

Here is a lacquered and reenforced rather battered box probably carried on the Sankin Kotai, for food? One side lifts up, and lacquered drawers are pushed out through fingerholes in the back. The top becomes a high-sided tray.

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One thing I have found myself attracted to is old Japanese boxes, plain wood, bound in iron, lacquered, etc, from simple and practical up to fancy. Well, not so fancy; the old purse kept my own feet pretty much firmly planted on the ground. 

 

Sadly they seem not to be highly treasured in Japan today; many must have been lost over the years to neglect or whatever. Lacquer is a good example of something really practical and beautiful, expensive when new, and yet so unloved when second-hand.

 

Japanese houses were for the main part without furniture and as I understand it, necessary objects were fitted by the house builder carpenter, not by separate furniture makers. Only richer people could afford to have moveable objects around the house, so furniture was a sign of growing wealth.

 

(Should we keep chests of drawers to a separate thread, or allow them in here too?)

 

If anyone wants to add comments or photos to this thread, please do. I was contemplating smallish boxes, say up to knee-height or the size for a set of armour. Oh, and katana-bako are OK!

Piers how about kura-bako? I really like Japanese boxes, the way they are built is amazing, some are so light and strong and yet remove one piece and they fall apart like a house of cards. Here is my kura-bako (saddle storage box), one of only a very few known examples. 58 cm x 52 cm x 53 cm.

 

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I'm a big fan of urushimono myself, here's a part of my collection

 

Tony-  you aren't alone in that.

I like them too, but whenever I find one I want to own... always outbid.

Wife is borderline clutter-phobia, thus I have to be extremely selective.

 

Otherwise I would own a lot more lacquerwork. It does fairly well here.

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I'm lucky that my wife doesn't mind a bit of clutter (not that she has much choice with the 12 cats she's adopted!). Here are two of the small boxes that I've acquired over the years:

 

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Ken

 

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I have often wondered why some boxes were so overly strapped while some were so clean. I mean the Japanese were so good at joinery. John

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Not all boxes were made from wood, these woven types seem to have been used for storing clothing, not sure what to call them.

 

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Your utsubo/ebira box reminded me of a similar but slightly smaller one that the wife threw out last year. Yesterday I found it in a sorry state round the back of the house and brought it in for some repairs and TLC (new wood pins etc.) . It is around 100 cm internally and just right for either a sword or some arrows. I wonder what its real purpose was? A large scroll?

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Your utsubo/ebira box reminded me of a similar but slightly smaller one that the wife threw out last year. Yesterday I found it in a sorry state round the back of the house and brought it in for some repairs and TLC (new wood pins etc.) . It is around 100 cm internally and just right for either a sword or some arrows. I wonder what its real purpose was? A large scroll?

Piers, I am glad to hear that you have rescued your box, a very nice and simple example. I see that the bottom is inset so that the top fits flush with the bottom and it has some hardware, is there a ring on both sides, if so maybe to tie the top to the bottom.

 

Mine is simpler, the top just fits over the bottom and no hardware at all. I wonder if there was a shop that carried boxes that you could pick from or if they were custom made for the item, and who would add the writing if any, the box maker or the customer.

 

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I just received two Aoi-Mon presentation trays in original box.

The box I need to partly restore/repair since it was split in some places and the construction is very interesting since there are no nails used but tiny wooden dowels and pins the diameter of a toothpick.

The storage box however, compared to modern day standards, is flimsy at best.




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Hank-Jen, you say the 'size' of toothpicks, but that is exactly what I use to repair such broken boxes. Wooden toothpicks are ok, but real bamboo picks are stronger. I put a dab of wood glue on the tip before hammering into the original hole where possible, and they fit there nice and tight. (Beautiful trays by the way!) A quick touch of non-gloss paint and a bit of a rub and they fade into the background.

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If you search around you can find toothpicks in bamboo, to save the filing down. If there are enough holes, then wood should be strong enough. Sometimes the original pins were already placed too far apart.

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Hank-Jen, a separate thread on damage repair to old boxes...?

Piers, you will have to start it, perhaps with some pictures of one of your box repairs, very helpful. On that note, I just had a pair of matching armor boxes repaired, they were falling apart, I will take some pictures when I get them unpacked.

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Two against one, so somewhat reluctantly I went and started one! :rotfl:

 

If no-one else posts a box soon, I will add something. Tebako boxes like the one Urashima Taro opened? A little box with magic drawers that blow open with a puff of air? More black lacquer iron-bound sankin kotai boxes? A funadansu? A lacquer box for lamp-lighting tools? Ladies' cosmetics boxes and containers?

 

Some lovely examples above. Any more?

 

Roll up, roll up, ladies and gentlemen; show us your wares! :thumbsup:

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I don't know how I missed this thread - great topic and some great examples of boxes!

 

I just acquired a daimyo-level jinbaori and the box it came in is very nice - thin wooden construction covered in leather and then lacquered. Aoi mon and interesting beveled shape too.

 

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Here's another box I've always loved. It's a tomobako for one of my jizai okimono - an iron grasshopper by Myochin Munenaga. Look at the quality of the box!

 

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