Mumei Wooden Kogo With Yukinokesshō Maki-e

Approximate size: W2.1″ by H2.1″ or 5.3 by 3.5cm

This is a first class kogo (holding vessel for incense), shaped as a natsume tea caddy. The wood used in this kogo has a quality grain and has been given a transparent coating of urushi, traditional Japanese lacquer work and is decorated with stylized Yukinokesshō, or snow crystals in silver and is finished by another layer of transparent urushi. Elegant and showcasing the wooden grain, its this delicate balance between maki-e and not overdoing it that makes objects like this so pleasing to behold.

The sap of the lacquer tree, today bearing the technical description of “urushiol-based lacquer”, has traditionally been used in Japan. As the substance is poisonous to the touch until it dries, the creation of lacquer ware has long been practiced only by skilled dedicated artisans.

The history goes back till at least 7600 years ago and the trees that produces the sap have been confirmed to have been in Japan all the way back to the Jōmon period which was around 12 600 BCE. There are wooden lacquered objects in museums well over a thousand years old.

The world’s earliest lacquer ware products were discovered from a pit grave in Kakinoshima Site B, a site from the first half of the Initial Jomon period (approx. 7,000 years ago), when people started settlements. Many artifacts of that time have been excavated, including 17 clay tablets with footprints as burial goods from pit graves of the latter half of the Initial Jomon period (5,000 BCE), a lacquered spouted vessel from the latter half of the Late Jomon period and censer-shaped pottery. These artifacts show a high level of technology, a mature society and a rich spiritual culture at that time.

To create different colors and textures, maki-e artists use a variety of metal powders including gold, silver, copper, brass, lead, platinum and other alloys. Bamboo tubes and soft brushes of various sizes are used for laying powders and drawing fine lines. As it requires highly skilled craftsmanship to produce a maki-e painting, young artists usually go through many years of training to develop the skills and to ultimately become maki-e masters. Kōami Dōchō (1410–1478) was the first lacquer master linked to specific works. His maki-e works used designs from various Japanese contemporary painters. Kōami and another maki-e master, Igarashi Shinsai, were originators of the two major schools of lacquer-making in the history of Japan.

The lacquer technique used in conjunction with Japanese lacquer is called Maki-e. It is incredibly delicate work and the raw materials are highly poisonous to the touch. It takes a long time to add lacquer in layers and it can take months, even years to finish.

The kogo has no chips, cracks of scratches. It bears slight signs of incense on the gold leaf of the lower half. It comes with the original mumei, unsigned paulownia tomobako and a first class decorated shifuku (cloth pouch).

€225 €125+ shipping cost


Among many techniques and functions of Japanese lacquer Kintsugi is perhaps the best known to the rest of the world.

Kintsugi is the general concept of highlighting or emphasizing imperfections, visualizing mends and seams as an additive or an area to celebrate or focus on, rather than absence or missing pieces and is part of the concept of wabi sabi 侘寂 (the acceptance of transience and imperfection). The technique involves using the poisonous lacquer which makes it an elaborate endeavor to have a piece repaired using this method, especially from outside Asia. Only after the process has been completed by a professional and the lacquer is dried completely is it safe to use and extremely durable.