Maki-e Lacquered Sakazuki Sake Cup

Tachibana Museum

Japanese traditional Maki-e lacquered Sake cup 

Sakazuki Sake Cup From the Collection of the Tachibana Family
Sakazuki is a container that is used for drinking Japanese sake. Gorgeous Sakazuki, such as those coated with Urushi lacquer and those decorated by Makie, were made for Samurai and Daimyo classes in the Edo period.

This sake cup is coated with lacquer in vermillion, and decorated with gold Maki-e design on the inner surface. It depicts tortoises and bamboo with raised sprinkled metal and the Tachibana family’s crest ‘Gion-mamori’ with flat sprinkled metal. They are auspicious motifs expressing an enchanted land.
There is a foot ring on the bottom of the cup, in which it bears an inscription “Kansho-sai, at the age of 63”. Kansho-sai is the pseudonym of Iizuka Toyo who was a skillful craftsman employed by the Hachisuka family of the Tokushima domain. The wife of the lord of the domain, Princess Tsute, was a daughter of Tachibana Sadayoshi, the 5th lord of the Yanagawa domain. Therefore, this cup was possibly a gift from the Hachisuka family on a festive occasion of the Tachibana family.

This vermillion lacquer cup has a Maki-e design depicting ‘Sugoroku’ in flat metal decoration on the inner surface. Sugoroku is a Japanese picture-map board game played with dice. The Sugoroku game on this cup expresses thirty-five illustrations of famous views in Edo, now in Tokyo. It is arranged spirally from the start at Nihonbashi bridge and finish at the Ote-mon Gate of Edo Castle, which is very rare design.
The creator, Koryusai, is considered to have been a Maki-e lacquer artist in the late Edo period, but his detailed career is unknown.

This Oribe style shallow sake cup coated with red lacquer is depicted a carp among the waves by using raised lacquering technique. It has an inscription of Shirai Kakosai which says "Shozan with kao (stylized signature)/ Yoshikuni" inside of the bottom stand. This big and long inscription for its middle sized Oribe style cup suggests that it was made as a single sake cup. Judging from the inscription, it is presumed to be bestowed by some superiors.

This Oribe style sake cup coated with red lacquer is designed by using the flat and raised lacquering technique. It has an inscription of Shirai Kakosai which says "Sumida river/ Shozan with kao (stylized signature)/ Yoshikuni" inside of the bottom stand. It depicts "Suda ferry", a boat-ferry crossing the Sumida river from Hashiba to Terashima in Edo. This route is also called "Umewaka ferry" or "Masaki ferry". It also depicts Masaki Inari Myo-jin shrine on the left side of the painting, Suda-zutsumi dike on the right and Mt. Tsukuba visible in the distance of the painting. It seemed to be one of the set of sake cups which are all of the same shapes painted with different famous landscapes in Edo. It might be a gift from a superior.

This Oribe style shallow sake cup coated with red lacquer is designed using a flat lacquering technique and Kimetsuke Kanagai (metal foil on the node of raised lacquer) technique. There is an inscription "Heisensai with kao (stylized signature)" inside of the bottom stand. The subject of the painting is Mitsui Echigo-ya (the biggest draper's shop) in Suruga-cho, Edo. The picture tells the magnificent two-story shops on both sides of the street, and there are people inside of the shops. The Edo castle and Mt. Fuji are visible in a distance and black-lacquered birds are in the sky. On the right side is Echigo-ya kimono shop with the sign "kimonos/ Suruga-cho/ Echigo-ya", and on the left side is Echigo-ya cotton shop with sign "silk, pongee, cotton goods/ Suruga-cho/ Echigo-ya". The letters on the sign boards can easily be read and we can also recognized the people's eyes and noses which are usually too small to draw.

This is a single flat shaped sake cup with a design of offshore landscape and a Japanese poem using flat, raised and burnished lacquering technique on vermillion lacquer. It depicts the reefs applied Kirikane (cut gold), the splashing sea spray sprinkled with silver powder and the crests of waves coated with Shiro-mitsuda (oil coated decoration). It has shellfishes and mother-of-pearls inlay. The design is based on a Japanese poem. The Tachibana family keeps another huge sake cup in which the original poem, composed by Nijoin Sanuki, was seen. The poem says, "My sleeves have not a moment to dry, just like the reefs lying offshore that cannot be seen even at low tide, although no one knows about it". On the other hand, the poem in this sake cup was changed from “my sleeves” into “my love” which is in the alternative version. The first half of the poem can be seen in the interior surface of this sake cup. It displays the offshore reefs which represents the Chinese character “乃” in Ashi-de (designs mixed characters as pictorial elements with motifs inside).

The last half of the poem is written on the exterior surface, and displays the design of waves and reefs extending from the interior to the exterior surface. Many of these kinds of sake cup that have motifs taken from a part of Japanese poems were produced in Kyoto. The thick wooden lacquer like this cup is a characteristic of Kyo-shikki (lacquerware produced in Kyoto). It seems that Tachibana family ordered this cup in Kyoto for regular use by miniaturizing the huge original cup. The original cup is a treasured heirloom in Tachibana family.

The artisan of this cup is unknown. It has Makie-design of a falcon and plum on the tortoiseshell ground, which is very tasteful and supposed to be ordered by the Daimyo feudal lord at Edo.

This shallow sake cup is what we call "Ukamuse" which was named after the famous Japanese restaurant "Ukamuse-tei" at Shin-kiyomizu, Osaka in the Genroku period (1688~1704). Many famous people visited this restaurant which kept various unique sake cups including "Ukamuse". When a customer ordered sake in "Ukamuse" cup which has a capacity about seven and a half of normal size cups, the master of the restaurant Shiroemon would appear wearing Hakama (Japanese traditional trousers), and he’d then take out the inner lacquer box with a Maki-e design depicting a Japanese waka poem from the paulownia outer box courteously. Then, he took out the huge "Ukamuse" cup made of abalone shell from the inner box and offered a cup of sake to the customer. If the customer could have drunk it all, the name of the person would be listed in the book of the restaurant to keep records. Some "Ukamuse" cup made of the normal-sized abalone shell are still in existence. The holes of the shell of most cups are sealed with rust lacquer, and decorated with raise-lacquered rocks and flat-lacquered waves and Chinese character "浮瀬". It is said that a restaurant in the Edo period opened with the same name "Ukamuse". A lot of Ukamuse cups might be reproduced because it was extremely famous that time. It is unknown of how this sake cup in Tachibana family was made and how it was handed down.

By : Tachibana Museum
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Tachibana Foundation

TAKAO Yo "Maki-e Sake Cup" - Art of YanagawaⅡ‐ Yanagawa city 2007 

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