This is an early Meiji Japanese footed sake cup washer done all over in early Japanese cloisonne standard technique. We date it to the period of 1870-1890 as that was when these more pitted examples of Japan were the standard before they learned how to refine their pieces with high polish and large areas of open space background. This bowl has a central reserve of the long feathery tailed turtle know as a Minogame and is surrounded by many intricate geometric figures and stylized flowers and vines. The piece measures 6 ½” diameter at the top – is 4 ½” high – and the base is 3 1/8” diameter. There is a light dent on the bottom rim and a ½” chip on the base under the cup.
In Japan the turtle has developed a different tradition than in China. It is known as minogame and is a symbol of longevity and felicity. The minogame is also depicted with a long feathery fan-like tail. A minogame has an important role in the well-known legend of Urashima Tarō. The tortoise is an attribute of Kompira, the deity of seafarers. It is a favored motif by netsuke-carvers and other artisans, and features in traditional Japanese wedding ceremonies. There is also a well-known tortoise-shell artistic pattern, based on the nearly hexagonal shape of a tortoise’s shell. These patterns usually comprise of symmetrical hexagons, sometimes with smaller hexagons within them.