Important Cultural PropertyWriting box 'Otokoyama,' lacquered with metal powder, the picture inspired by a poem by Minamoto no Masazane

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  • 1 piece
  • Lacquered wood
  • 22.7x21.4x5.0
  • Muromachi period/15th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • H-34

This piece is an over-lapping lid style (kabusebuta-zukuri) writing box, with each corner cut off (sumikiri) and the edges beveled (mentori). It has a black-lacquer finish, with fine pearskin decoration (nashiji) applied on both sides of the lid, the inside bottom of the box (mikomi) and even the corners of the nesting boxes (kakego).
At the center of the inside of the box (minouchi), there is a gourd-shaped gilt bronze water-dropper and an inkstone with edges that are sprinkled with gold dust, with nesting boxes on both sides. This is the typical structure of double-nesting boxes, often seen in writing boxes from the Muromachi period.
The picture on the outside of the lid is of a landscape (sansui-ga) motif. In the foreground are autumn plants such as the chrysanthemum, the fringed pink and the balloonflower; in the background are gentle-sloped mountains. The pictures on the backside of the lid and mikomi, show a different style finely depicting a religious hall (shaden) by a river. The main techniques used are gold raised makie (takamakie) and burnished makie (togidashi makie), with a variety of others including: flat makie (hiramakie), a combination of raised makie and burnished makie (shishiai togidashi makie), drawing with narrow lacquer lines and oversprinkling with gold and/or silver filings (tsukegaki), engraving in lacquer with a needle (harigaki) and cut metal shapes (kirikane). The combination of these techniques exemplifies the high point of the makie art, which reached its pinnacle about the time this piece was made.
In the pictures there are characters such as代々 (over generations), 男 (otoko, man), よ (interjectory particle), 里 (village), 仰 (look up at), 出 (to come out) and かけ(kake), which are written with imbedded silver sheets (hyoumon). This indicates that the motifs of the pictures were taken from a waka poem in the ninth scroll of Shoku Gosen Wakashu by Minamoto no Masazane. This poem reads, "Keep on shining, the moon, over generations and generations. I am looking up at Mt. Otoko now, the moon is rising up from the ridge." This approach to designing is called ashide, where one uses the words from a waka both as decoration and as the source of inspiration. Ashide was frequently used at the time.