Mirror with pine tree and cranes, YAMAMOTO ALLOY WORKS CO., LTD., Photo by Stria photographics, Original Source: YAMAMOTO ALLOY WORKS CO., LTD.
Mirrors are usually considered primarily as implements for personal grooming but, in
Japan, mirrors were used for far more than reflecting one's image. Within Japanese culture, mirrors are one of the most potent symbols of power, revered as sacred objects representing the gods. Mirrors are also admired as artistic
objects, as they have intricate pictorial designs on their backs. The
technology needed to cast metal mirrors was introduced to Japan from China around
the Yayoi period (ca. 3rd century BCE–3rd century CE). During the Heian period (794–1185), the mirror was included as part of the elaborate toiletry sets used by aristocrats. Though the earliest mirrors were fashioned after Chinese mirrors, in time mirror makers began to depict Japanese style designs and motifs from the Japanese natural world. In ancient times, round
mirrors typically had a knob in the center of the back, through which a cord would be strung. Later, as the hand mirror (a round mirror with a rectangular protruding handle) came into use, designs became more pictorial, covering the entire
back. These mirrors with designs on the back became popular among commoners in
the Edo period, and the motifs used in these designs became diversified.