Important Cultural PropertyWriting box with boat and reed motif in mother-of-pearl inlay

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  • Attributed to Honnami Kōetsu
  • 1 piece
  • Lacquered wood
  • L23.6 W22.4 H4.2
  • Edo period/17th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • H-4234

This is a square writing box with both beveled edges and a shallowly over-lapping convex lid (kabusebuta-zukuri). The water dropper and inkstone are on the left hand-side of the inside of the box, while the nesting boxes are on the right. The outer sides are black lacquered, on which motifs of a small rowing boat between reeds and plovers flying in the sky are pictured with imbedded cut-shapes (hyōmon) of lead, gold low-relief raised makie (usuniku takamakie) and flat makie (hiramakie).
This design of reeds and a rowing boat has also been found on the sheets of paper used for the Shigeyuki Anthology in the Nishihonganji-temple version of the Anthologies of The Thirty-six Poets. Some think that it was taken from former-bishop Dōgen's waka poem, in the sixth scroll of the Gyokuyō Waka Anthology, which reads, "As a fisherman poles a boat, the evening tide comes in. Flocking plovers are singing louder now." Others interpret the design as the scenery of the beach of Soto in Mustu province, which appeared in the Noh song "Utou."
The shape of the box and the way plovers are pictured are somewhat of the older style of writing boxes. Its charm consists of its simplicity, in comparison to Kōetsu's other makie works.