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Stylish Accessories

Japanese Sagemono
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Stylish Accessories

Vanessa Tothill
23rd Nov 2018
By Vanessa Tothill

Sagemono describes a group of portable Japanese objects that were worn suspended from the waist. A selection of these have been catalogued in the collection at Maidstone Museum, and we would like to highlight some beautiful examples here.

These Stylish everyday objects, such as calligraphy brushes and pipe cases were worn by the owner, and either looped through or tucked into their wide obi belt. The following two designs increased the portability of writing sets, which usually comprised a solid and relatively heavy block of ink that needed to be ground and mixed with water before use.

Yatate meaning ‘quiver’ were calligraphy brush holders shaped like a smoking pipe. This ink and brush holder has been decorated with stylized flowers and foliage in raised filigree metal work, with a cloisonné stem and bowl. The inkwell or sumitsubo was designed to hold cotton saturated with ink, while the shaft provided a container for a brush.

The brush and ink compartments of the yatate were sometimes separate objects threaded together by a silk cord. This type of yatate had a cylindrical brush case and a separate container or inro for the inked cotton.

Numerous items were attached to the belt, from medicine containers, tobacco pouches, pipe cases, seals and their containers, to writing equipment and of course fans. Pipes and their sheaths were highly decorative objects designed to display the sophisticated taste of their male owners and involved great craftsmanship.

This is an example of a wide-barrelled pipe with a small bowl for smoking tobacco. The pipe is decorated on the stem with an elaborate relief design of a dragon among swirling clouds and waves. Flashes of lightning have been picked out in gold. The pipe unscrews at its centre. Pipes were carried in ivory or wooden pipe cases.

To see the beauty of Japanese craftsmanship in its many forms, visit Maidstone Museum and explore the internationally significant Japanese Collection: