This is a most unusual hand mirror. The majority of those we have owned over the years were made of solid bronze. This one appears to have been made with an alloy containing silver and bronze. It measures 4.9"" in diameter and is .7" thick. It weighs a heavy 29 ounces - 1.8 pounds - 830 grams. The top of the mirror has a very intricate and extremely well executed in deep relief. It is in excellent condition with no breaks or cracks - just a small amount of verdigris has formed. We date the mirror to the mid-Meiji period, circa 1880s.
The design is intriguing - it consists of a series of Japanese cranes and turtles. Cranes in Japanese textiles generally represent longevity and good fortune. Meanings derived from a turtle/tortoise motif are complex in Japanese culture. Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism all contribute understanding. These traditions claim that the tortoise helps prop up the world, guards the northern quadrant of the universe with the snake, and carries on its carapace sacred inscriptions. Primarily the tortoise is a symbol of longevity.
The crane motif predominates. Near the center left you can see a large crane inserting its beak into the beak of a smaller crane - father and mother (?). At the bottom - 5:00 and 6:00 are three very small baby cranes following the mother crane. As you examine this relief design closely you can see a turtle in the very center. At the very bottom near the rim we find a tiny turtle at around 7:00. All six of these cranes and turtles are totally surrounded by thick foliage and flowers - these cover almost the entire surface not dedicated to the creatures. On the right side - at 2:00-4:00 is a string of Kanji characters. The translation of these characters is "Tenka-ichi, Shozan Masamune” (world number one, Shozan Masamune).