Japanese Antiques by Ichiban Oriental and Asian Art
An Unusual Bamboo & Lacquer Tonkotsu Tobacco Container

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All Items: Antiques:Regional Art:Asian:Japanese:Netsuke and Related: Pre 1900: item # 438215

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Ichiban Japanese & Oriental Antiques
Post Office Box 395
Marion, CT 06444-0395

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An Unusual Bamboo & Lacquer Tonkotsu Tobacco Container
A two piece bamboo body tonkotsu with applied decoration of five Japanese coins three on one side (one of which is carved from ivory) and two on the other side. The piece measures 3 3/16" wide by 1 1/2" deep and is 2 5/16" high. The four non ivory coins appear to be made of lacquered wood. The tonkotsu is in excellent condition with no chips or cracks or restorations there is even a faint lingering hint of tobacco aroma on the inside. We date this piece to the late Edo to early Meiji period, circa 1850-1880s.

In that superb reference classic, "Inro and Other Miniature Forms of Japanese Lacquer Art" by Melvin and Betty Jahss, Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1971 they say this about tonkotsu - - "The tobacco box was used as an alternative to the tobacco pouch and is usually rectangular in shape with a small lid on top. It is about the size of an inro, being slightly wider and deeper, and is usually made of wood, which is often lacquered." The tonkotsu is a container for tobacco and, as in this case, usually has only a single compartment. Tonkotsu are usually made of wood and decorated with lacquer this example is quite unusual because the body of the piece is made from bamboo a material that is rarely seen used for these items.

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