Kasama Shuseki, brocade vase with Japanese zodiac signs and fable designs

explanation of the work

The vase has 6 Japanese zodiac signs and scene related with fable designs. However, on this small vase, the first half of the 12 zodiac signs are drawn.

In 6 panels, mouse, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake and their related fable designs are drawn as if to solve the mystery. Probably, another pair had horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, boar, and the related fable designs.

Based on many fables, the master craftsmen of the Meiji period painted various designs that mean prosperity of descendants, prosperity of the house, and longevity, or old stories etc., so the Japanese zodiac was often used as one of the motifs.

size: caliber about 4.2 cm, body diameter about 7.8 cm, height about 17.6 cm

First of all, regarding “mouse and rice bales”, mouse are prolific creatures, so it means prosperity of offspring, and rice bales are lucky charms to celebrate the abundance of grains. So both means they are auspicious in combination.

Regarding “rabbit and full moon”, two rabbits looking up at the full moon are drawn. Like the legend in “Konjaku Stories” talked about the moon and rabbits, or since the legend that rabbits might live on the moon were handed down, it seems that this combination was made from ancient times.

Regarding “ox and plum”, the ox recalls the shrine Tenmangu, which enshrines Sugawara Michizane, who was famous for plum lovers and exiled to the shrine far from Kyoto. Furthermore, since Sugawara Michizane was worshiped as the god of learning, it is thought that craftsmen prayed for the improvement of their skills. At the same time, it seems to be related to the legend that the Kaga Maeda family was believed to be the descendant of Sugawara Michizane.

Regarding “snake and chrysanthemum”, since the festival of Hina festibal (May 3rd) was for girls, the festival of Cho-yo (September 9th) became one of the five festivals as an adult festival. In response to the practice, the adult festival was also called “Chrysanthemum Festival” according to the season when the chrysanthemums bloomed. It is probable that this design was drawn from the custom of drinking chrysanthemum-sake at that time.

The design of “Dragon and Mt. Fuji peak” seems to mean the same thing as “Dragon flying over Mt. Fuji” drawn by Katsushika Hokusai. The design of the dragon ascending over Mt. Fuji was often drawn in the hope of the development of the family business and the prosperity of the family.

Regarding “tiger and bamboo grass”, it was said that the tiger meant a drunkard and the bamboo grass meant sake (it seems to be in the wife’s language), so “tigers come with bamboo grass” was told funny. It seems that the bamboo grass became a design suitable for the tiger. Also, since the design “bamboo tiger figure” could be seen in ko-kutani, this creator might be inspired by that design.

The back name is written as “Kutani / Mino-do”. “Mino-do” is the store name of Kasama Shuseki. He had other back names.

creator of the work

Kasama Shuseki     笠間 秀石

unknown year of birth, death in 1895

Kasama Shuseki (Yaichiro) was born as a child of Ecchu-ya Heikichi (1790-1856), who was the foreman of the Minzan kiln, and is said that he learned the technique of red painting from his father. After that, he was adopted by the Kasama family (details unknown).

He was a disciple of Kutani Shoza from around 1877 to around 1883, and he became known as Shoza’s high-ranking disciple, and was said to assist Shoza. After the death of Shoza in 1883, he returned to Kanazawa and started the porcelain painting business, creating many works of red painting or brocade. His works were highly evaluated, so it was said to be a master craftsman among the master craftsmen of Meiji kutani.

It is said that “mino” in “Mino-do” means to combine various cloths to make new ones, so it is believed that Kasama Shusei combined three styles (Shoza style, Minzan kiln style (red fine drawing) influenced by my father, and his own style of painting), and adopted “mino” for the store name to express his strong willingness to create unique new painting style by combining the painting styles.


reference No. 18112405
date of exhibition 2019.10.20
price J-yen 7900
remarks wooden box