Japanese Antiques by Ichiban Oriental and Asian Art

An Edo Period Bamboo Tonkotsu - Signed

An Edo Period Bamboo Tonkotsu - Signed

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Japanese: Pre 1900: Item # 1255871

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This is a rare mid to late 19c Japanese bamboo / wood carved Japanese Tonkotsu, tobacco box. The body is made of bamboo and the top cover and the bottom are made of a medium brown wood. The top of the tonkotsu is carved on one side with a series of characters which we understand make up an ancient Chinese poem. My colleague who does translations for us said that the only character which he could make out is "Renge" meaning Lotus. Below that poem, on the lower part of the piece, is a deeply engraved design of a lotus flower, leaves and a bud. On the reverse side of the body is a set of characters which are the carver's name. These characters read "Korenare To" (Korenare carved).

The oval box that makes up the tonkotsu measures 4" high and is just under 2 1/2" wide. There are vertical splits in the bamboo body splits that look to have been there since first made. These have been solidly secured with old pins similar to a modern staple - but clearly hand made U-shaped pins. The string is possibly the original and there is an elongated pinkish orange bead that serve as the ojime of closure for the tonkotsu. The interior of the box is made of a hessian type material. (See Footnote). The inner hessian type material is still intact, with the string running through the side tubes - this inner hessian lining would have to have been added after the bamboo had dried out completely. The top lid fits very snugly. A superb piece dating to the mid to late 1800's.

Footnote - Hessian material is a woven fabric usually made from skin of the jute plant or sisal fibres. Hessian is often used to make sacks and bags to ship goods like coffee beans. It is breathable and thus resists condensation and associated spoilage of the contents. Hessian is also often used for the transportation of unprocessed "green" tobacco. This material is used for much the same reasons as it would be used for coffee.