Inrō - Shell-Matching Game
Inrō - Shell-Matching Game
Inrō - Shell-Matching Game

Inrō - Shell-Matching Game


A very fine four-case inrō by Yoyusai, depicting a gold-tiered box used in the shell-matching game and a pair of inubako. The tiered box continues around the side and onto the verso of the design, with a selection of shells scattered across the ground. Each pair of upturned shells displays a different, delicately rendered scene. The design is in high relief against a roiro and gold hirame ground.

An inubako is a stylised dog-shaped box, inu meaning dog and bako meaning box. A pair of inubako is significant as a good luck charm for a woman getting married, and also during the Girl’s Day festival in March. Here this is combined with the shell-matching game which, as discussed earlier in this catalogue, often formed part of a bride’s trousseau and symbolises faithfulness. This inrō could well have been a wedding gift, or given by a wife to her husband.

Circa 1830

Signed, Yoyusai

Height: 9.2cm


Chiura Obata (1885-1975)

Chiura Obata was an artist born in 1885 in Okayama Prefecture, Japan. At the age of 14 he went to Tokyo where he studied with Tanryo Murata, Kogyo Terasaki and Goho Hashimoto. In 1903 he moved to the USA. He spent much of the 1920s painting landscapes throughout California and helped establish the East West Art Society in San Francisco in 1921.

In 1965, Obata received the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Emperor’s Award, for promoting goodwill and cultural understanding between the United States and Japan. He died in 1975, aged 90.

Kanin family collection

The Kan’in-no-miya (閑院宮家) was the youngest of the four shinnōke, branches of the Imperial Family of Japan who were eligible to succeed to the Chrysanthemum Throne in the event that the main line should die out. It was founded by Prince Naohito, the son of Emperor Higashiyama.

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