国宝『八橋蒔絵螺鈿硯箱』尾形光琳 National Treasure “Yatsuhashi Makie Raden Writing Box” Korin Ogata


I would like to summarize in detail the national treasure “Yahashi Makie Raden Writing Box”, which was introduced in the past post of Raden Abalone Shell, which is owned by the Tokyo National Museum.


This suzuri-bako is said to have been made by Korin Ogata during the Edo period.

硯箱としては異例の形 An unusual shape for a suzuri-bako

東京国立博物館 撮影可 VR動画よりFrom the VR video that can be taken Photo at the Tokyo National Museum


大きさは、高さ14.1cm 蓋縦27.5cm 蓋横19.8cm (国宝事典より)です。


The size of this box is larger than you can imagine in the photo. It is not as big as a “Te-bako”, but it is taller than a suzuri-bako, and I get the impression that it is different from other cultural properties as a suzuri-bako.

The size is 14.1 cm in height, 27.5 cm in length of the lid, and 19.8 cm in width of the lid (from the National Treasure Encyclopedia).

Inkstones and water droplets are stored in the upper row, and paper is placed in the lower row.


And the deck of the cover is gently curled up from a groove-like step called “Chirii”. Furthermore, the circumference of the lid is rounded, called a “tamafuchi”.


The “Chirii” and the “Tamafuchi” of this cover are the traditional shape of the wooden base found in the hand boxes and sutra boxes of the Heian period. It can be said that it is a shape that shows the high level of technical skill of the woodworker at that time and the painter who lacquered the groundwork from above.

伝統的な被せ蓋 + 2段式の高さ→ 全体的なバランスを取る→立体表現を可能に。

Traditional cover + 2-stage height → Overall balance → 3D expression is possible.


It can be said that it is a three-dimensional expression that could only be achieved by the craftsmanship of the time when Korin’s innovative design answered.

漆芸技法 Lacquer technique

使われている漆芸材料 Lacquer art material used

ミュージアムショップで販売している菓子缶 Confectionery cans sold at the museum shop
  • 鉛板→橋
  • 銀板→橋の柱:鉛板とは微妙に異なる色合いで区別している
  • 鮑の厚貝→厚さ1mm程度の鮑貝を糸鋸で切ったのちに、際に下地漆を付けて、中塗り、上塗りで塗り込めている
  • 金粉→平蒔絵:すり漆で固めてはいますが、磨きをそこまでしない蒔きっぱなし風仕上げ
  • Lead plate → bridge
  • Silver plate → pillar of bridge: It is distinguished from the lead plate by a slightly different color.
  • Abalone thick shell → After cutting abalone shell with a thickness of about 1 mm with a jigsaw, apply base lacquer, and apply with intermediate coat and top coat.
  • Gold powder → Hira-makie: It was hardened with lacquer, but it was not polish so much.



The top coat is Matte, Sugurome-urushi, and it is said that it is finished by leaving it as it is.

The lead plate and silver plate are not painted from above, and the other parts are intermediately coated and top coated, avoiding the plates.

実用品として使用 Used as a daily item

  • 硯:特に名のある石ではない
  • 水滴:水を出す口元の角が潰れている状態→コツコツと叩いて最後の水滴を出した証拠
  • 料紙箱の底:蒔絵部分が擦り減っている
  • Inkstone: Not a particularly famous stone
  • Water droplets: A state in which the corners of the mouth where water is discharged are crushed → Proof that the last water droplet was discharged by tapping steadily
  • Bottom of paper box: The lacquer part is worn out


From the above, it is said that this suzuri-bako was actually used on a daily basis at that time.


I think it’s quite interesting that a practical product, which has no record of who used it, will become a national treasure after hundreds of years.

留守文様 Absence pattern


The designs of this suzuri-bako are “Yatsuhashi” and “Iris flower”.

燕子花の過去投稿でも取り上げましたが。。。I mentioned it in the past post of Iris. .. ..


This is a subject that Korin often picked up. The theme is the scene of Yatsuhashi, Mikawa Province, 9th stage of “Ise Monogatari”. When the main character, Ariwara no Narihira, sees the iris flowers blooming beautifully, he sings the five characters of “Kakitsubata” in the Japanese poem, and tears when he thinks of his wife in the city.


A combination of “bridge” and “iris flower”, a pattern that draws only the symbol of the story and does not draw anything else is called an “absence pattern”(Rusu-monnyou). Of course, to understand the absence pattern, you cannot understand it unless you know the story itself.



It is said that this absence pattern was often used for upper class lacquer patterns.

It is probable that this box was also used by the upper class, although the name of the user is unknown.

文様構成 Pattern composition


A famous feature of this Suzuri-bako is the continuous pattern composition.



Lead plates representing Yatsuhashi are connected on five sides.

Right side → front → left side → lid → back side



In addition, the surface of the lead is intentionally scratched to express the intensity of the traffic of the bridge.

The continuous pattern is a unique design of Korin that has never been seen in traditional lacquer boxes. Korin is praised for its fact that it has influenced posterity by incorporating such innovative designs as a tradition at that time.


It is also said that Korin’s sense of design was born as a child of a mercer, and was brought up and cultivated by seeing the design of kimono every day. It is said that the Konishi family, a descendant of the kimono dealer who is Korin’s parents’ house, still has a continuous pattern composition similar to this Suzuri-bako. As an important cultural property to be compared, “Umeki Makie Box Sketch” is in the collection of the Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts.

実は凄い箱の内側の蒔絵 In fact, the lacquer work inside the box is amazing


When this suzuri-bako is exhibited, priority is given to the points that show a continuous pattern composition. I have never seen an exhibition showing the inside.


It is explained and introduced with photos and VR videos. The lacquer work inside is wonderful just by looking at the pictures.


It is said that a wave pattern is drawn tightly inside. And it seems that the corners of the box are drawn firmly. The corners of the box are very difficult to draw, such as the position of the hand when drawing and the angle of the brush. You can understand the high level of brush-carrying skills of skilled lacquer artists at that time.


In addition, the wave pattern drawn on the inside of the lower tier and the bottom of the upper tier of the box is ↓



Inside the lower row → The water surface that undulates by changing the height of the waves

Upper bottom back → calm water surface


As mentioned above, it is a lacquer work that feels the essence of the Edo period, which looks the same at first glance and is different when you look closely. In addition, the wave pattern drawn by Korin is evaluated to have been enhanced to the point where it captures and cuts out the momentary movement of the wave pattern, which has only been formally drawn until now, to create a beautiful shape.

尾形光琳 Korin Ogata



The life background of Korin Ogata, who is said to be the author, is an important point in creating this Suzuri-bako.

This Suzuri-bako is estimated to be Korin’s work in his mid-40s.


Korin is said to have been in his 40s when a kimono dealer in Kyoto was born into a family business, and his father died and he was in need of life and started painting. Since he started making his living as a painter, I think he has made great use of kimono designs and his aesthetics.



This Suzuri-bako is a wonderful work overall realized by the innovation of Korin Ogata and the high technology of the craftsmen who realize it.

Please go to see it when it is exhibited.

参考文献 References

  • 文化庁協力『国宝事典 [第四版]』.便利堂,2019
  • 小松大秀/加藤寛『漆芸品の鑑賞基礎知識』.至文堂,1997
  • 加藤寛『図解 日本の漆工』.東京美術,2014
  • 内田篤呉『光琳蒔絵の研究』.中央公論美術出版,2011
  • 仲町啓子『もっと知りたい尾形光琳 生涯と作品』.東京美術,2008


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