Antique Saké Set: 7pc with shichifukujin Maki-e

Approximate size: W2.2″ by H1.0″ or 5.3 by 3.5cm

This is an antique set of 7 lacquered wooden guinomi or saké cups. The cups in this set have charming lacquer work in a theme that I’ve always found intriguing. The Japanese Seven Lucky Gods. These Gods are an amalgam of figures from Hindu, Taoist and Shinto religions representing Indian, Chinese and Japanese cultures. There are similarities between the 7 Japanese Lucky Gods and the 8 Immortals of Chinese lore, and originally the myths from China served as their basis. They are named Jurojin, Daikoku, Fukorokujo, Hotei, Benten, Ebisu and Bishamon. Curiously Ebisu is the only one native to Japan and the Shinto religion.

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 Seven Lucky Gods of Japan are an eclectic group of deities from Japan, India, and China. Daikokuten, Bishamonten, and Benzaiten hail from the Hindu-Buddhist pantheon of India, the remaining 3 stem from Chinese Taoist-Buddhist traditions (Hotei, Jurōjin and Fukurokuju respectively).

In order to create different colours 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. Maki-e masters Kōami and Igarashi Shinsai are the originators of the two major schools of lacquer-making in the history of Japan.

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 practised only by skilled dedicated artisans.

All cups are in good condition. Due to their age there are some discernible marks as shown in the photos but there are no serious flaws that warrant restoration or cause for concern. The set can be preserved and used in the current condition.

€310 + 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.