Lacquer Furniture

Amongst the Meiji export furniture made from various materials, following the tradition of the Namban and Komo eras, lacquer furniture remained most popular throughout the Meiji era. Lacquer had been prized in Japan for more than a thousand years, thus, numerous production centres existed at the beginning of the Meiji era. Tokyo, Kyoto, and Kanazawa were the three largest centres, and Fukushima, Wakayama, and Shizuoka became active participants in the export market. Moreover, as a result of the migration of numerous lacquerers after the Meiji Restoration, Yokohama emerged as a leading producer, whence various crafts were vigorously exported to the West. (1)
The value of lacquer export grew very rapidly, from 158,000 in 1873 to 550,000 in 1882, then it started to decline and reached 450,000 by 1884.(2) This decline was caused by the production of inferior goods. Basically lacquer is not suitable for mass production: it requires a time-consuming process and high production costs. In order to lower this cost and fulfil the increasing demand from the West, some workshops started to skip the most critical and onerous process associated with lacquer production: the application of numerous coats of lacquer to compose foundations. This defect was invisible on the surface, and, in fact, the majority of Westerners had no knowledge about lacquer technique. However, the inferiority of such works was soon uncovered. As opposed to the high durability of quality pieces, such lacquer was fragile and easily flaked off. This sullied the high reputation of Japanese lacquer and thus trade sharply declined. In an attempt to improve the situation, some conscientious craftsmen and entrepreneurs formed an association of lacquer craftsmen and tightened quality control. As a result of these efforts, the lacquer trade recovered and reached 620,000 in 1889 and nearly doubled to 1,134,000 by 1913.(3 )
Moving on to the analysis of varied lacquer furniture available for the export in the Meiji era, I should mention Nagasaki lacquer first. The furniture decorated with colourful shell inlay on black lacquer grounds had been produced under Dutch instruction since the late eighteenth century in Nagasaki.(4) This production was carried on for at least the first eleven years of the Meiji era, i.e. until 1878.(5) However, it seems that Nagasaki lacquer producers rarely participated in the world and domestic exhibitions during this time. It is quite possible that they did not dare to change the marketing routes and procedures which were firmly established during the previous 100-year period with the Dutch. The dressing table in Figure 24 exported to the USA in the early Meiji period is a typical Nagasaki ware: a design of this piece was included in Nurimono Hinagata Hikae (Lacquerware Design Manuals) prepared in 1878 in Nagasaki as a sales catalogue (Fig. 25). The colourful decoration with flowers and bird motifs in shell inlay exactly follows the conventional Nagasaki lacquers which emerged during the late eighteenth century. In this sense, Nagasaki wares produced in the early Meiji period were nothing but an extension of Komo export furniture, and they disappeared soon without playing any important role in the Meiji export market.

Instead of Nagasaki wares, a new type of lacquer that can be regarded as a direct descendant of Namban and Komo wares emerged in the Meiji export market: Shibayama lacquer. It was invented in Chiba prefecture at the end of the Edo era by Senzo Onogi, who later moved toTokyo and changed his name to Senzo Shibayama.(6) Shibayama works have easily recognisable features (Fig. 26). Elaborately finished pieces of ivory, mother-of-pearl, tortoiseshell, horn and other materials are inlaid into gold lacquered ground, wooden panels, or sometimes ivory grounds. The motifs were always something suggestive of Japan such as Samurai, Geisha, Mt. Fuji, dragons, cranes, and turtles, and the backgrounds and details were depicted in lacquer. Although some exceptional large cabinets were produced, the majority of Shibayama wares are small objects.
This inlaid lacquer, which appears excessively ornamental to most Japanese, was exclusively made for export, and attained huge popularity in the West. Following this success, numerous inferior imitations were produced by other workshops, sometimes bearing fraudulent Shibayama signatures, and this blemished the reputation of Shibayama. Consequently, despite the large output during the Meiji era, Shibayama remained virtually unknown in Japan until recently, and when known was certainly highly underestimated. Today, only two craftsmen are said to exist in Yokohama.(7) Shibayama works were actively marketed by Kiritsu Kosho Kaisha and other major wholesalers and retailers in Yokohama such as Minoda (8) and Ozeki.(9)
Of all Meiji lacquer furniture, display cabinets (kazari-dana) and screens were most commonly exported (Fig. 27). Kazari-dana were traditionally produced for wealthy feudal lords particularly during the Edo period in Japan. Figure 28 shows one of the most elaborate pieces made for the wedding of the Tokugawa family in 1639. As clearly seen in these two photographs (Figs 27 and 28), the traditional kazari-dana was transformed into an upright and far more decorative cabinet for the export market.(10) Moreover, as is often the case with Meiji export furniture, multiple techniques and materials were applied on one object. For example, the carved body of the export cabinet shown in Figure 27 is lacquered, and drawers and sliding doors are decorated with carved and inlaid ivory panels.
The precise dating and identification of Meiji export furniture is problematic. As opposed to the Namban and Komo era, when exports were chiefly governed by a single nation, Meiji trade was far more diversified and complicated. Lacquer furniture in particular had numerous production centres, and was mostly unsigned. Therefore, I have endeavoured to find some stylistic changes during the 45-year period of Meiji, by examining the records of world exhibitions, Onchi Zuroku, lacquer furniture sold by Liberty & Co., and those of recent auction sales.
In 1873, numerous lacquer works including furniture were sent to the exhibition in Vienna. The Japanese crafts industry at this time was dominated by major wholesalers. In the case of lacquer, the above-mentioned Minoda, Ozeki and Hanbei Arai (11) were particularly active.(12) Judging from the brief description of objects in the lists, it seems that they were mostly pieces of traditional low Japanese furniture without large feet or stands except for a few items exhibited by Hanbei Arai and others; however, no detailed information on the actual designs is available.

For the decade between 1876 and 1885, thanks to Onchi, a lot more visual records survive. Amidst many participants, those who sent Western shaped lacquer furniture to the Philadelphia (1876) and Paris (1878) exhibitions were Hanbei Arai, Chojiro Minoda, (13) the Kiritsu Kosho Kaisha, and Kyubei Kikuchi.(14) As shown in the examples in Figure 29-31, most objects were lavishly adorned with motifs of Japanese style such as birds, flowers, Mt. Fuji, bamboo, fans and landscapes. It is certain that hybrid lacquer furniture accommodating Western shapes and Japanese decoration became more common from the time of these exhibitions. However, the evidence available in Onchi suggests that very decorative tall lacquer cabinets combined with wood and ivory carvings, exemplified by that of figure 27, were not yet in production. This seems to me a reasonable assumption, because craft industry at the time must not have been integrated enough to produce such objects, which require the collaboration of craftsmen of different skills. Most pieces of furniture illustrated in Onchi are more restrained and lower in height. Two tall shelves with legs by Zenji Shiura (15) are rather exceptional, but they are also relatively simple and rectilinear without any flamboyant decoration (Fig. 32). The sales catalogues of Liberty & Co. during this decade also advertised small size cabinets of simpler shape (Fig. 44).(16)
It is certain that decorative tall export cabinets appeared in the late nineteenth century. The 1880s was the time when more Japanese entrepreneurs emerged and furniture export increased significantly. The participants in the world exhibitions at this time the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1878 and 1889, the Worldís Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, and another Exposition in Paris in 1900 are composed of numerous individual makersí names as opposed to preceding exhibitions dominated by leading wholesalers. The records of these exhibitions, however, do not offer many clues as to the designs of lacquer furniture.
Libertyís sales catalogue (1891) advertised two kinds of lacquer cabinets (Figs 33 and 34(b)). These are the most common types of Japanese export lacquer cabinets. The one with open shelves and cabriolet legs, decorated with ivory and mother-of-pearl inlay, shown in figure 32, is of the same variety as the cabinet previously illustrated in Figure 27. This was available in three different heights, ranging from 127 to 183 cm (50 to 75 in), priced between 11 10s and 36 15s. Another rectangular cabinet with a bird-shaped crest, shown in Figure 34(b) is 229 cm (90 in) high and sold at 52 10s.(17 )Considering the fact that the rent of a five- to six- bedroom house in the 1890s could be as low as 20 to 40 a year, (18) it is easily imagined that these cabinets were luxurious furniture. Nevertheless, five years later, in 1896, the price of such cabinets had dropped dramatically: cabinets identical to but smaller (168 cm high) than that illustrated in figure 34(b) were sold for 9 9s by Liberty.(19) This indicates that the taste for these cabinets had waned by the end of the nineteenth century.
During the late Meiji era, around 1900-1912, lacquer furniture was rarely advertised in Libertyís catalogues. In regard to the exhibitions held during this time, some photographs of lacquer furniture sent to the Japan-British Exhibition are available (Figs 35, 36). Both of these are of more restrained and rectilinear design, and the interior shown in Figure 36 demonstrates the strong influence of the Vienna Seccession, and particularly that of Josef Hoffman.(20) This suggests again that the type of lacquer cabinets examined above were out of fashion at this time, and, although it is very likely that the production of such pieces continued well into the twentieth century, they were not sent to main exhibitions any more. The lacquer furniture shown in Figures 35 and 36, however, does not seem to have won much regard by the British: the exhibitionís Official Report, published in London, predominantly described carved wood furniture, which will be examined in the next section, and no mention of lacquer furniture was made.(21)
One lacquer cabinet produced during the late Meiji era was sold in a recent sale held in Stuttgart (Fig. 37).(22) This high quality piece is unusually well documented. The craftsman is not known, but the attached voucher from an original retailer and an insurance company prove that it was sold by Samurai Shokai in Yokohama (23) to a German client in 1909 for 2,000 gold marks. The basic shape of this cabinet is similar to that sold by Liberty shown in Figure 34(b), but without a gaudy crest and pierced work. This cabinet is elaborately decorated with fourteen scenes from old Japanese legend in inlaid and raised lacquer (takamaki-e). As already mentioned in Chapter III, the owner of Samurai Shokai, Yozo Nomura, is known to have supported a number of craftsmen.(24)
Lastly, an examination of the Japanese lacquer influence on Western furniture should be made. Furniture covered with Japanese lacquer panels cannibalised from screens and other objects, which was a speciality of Bernard II van Risenburgh during the eighteenth century, was still produced in the late nineteenth century in Europe (Fig. 38). On the other hand, a cabinet produced in England around the same time, shown in Figure 39, is another derivation. Although this piece is decorated with lacquer panels as well in this case, only partially with Namban wares the rectilinear shape of cabinet is in the Anglo-Japanese style, which emerged in the late nineteenth century under the influence of the Aesthetic Movement.(25)
The imitation of lacquer, japanning, which was popularly practised in the eighteenth century in Europe (as mentioned in Chapter II, see Figure 9), went on until the end of the nineteenth century (Fig. 40). Compared to the rather confusing pieces produced in the eighteenth century, this cabinet displays better understanding of the concept inherent in Japanese aesthetic.
To summarise this section, it can be said that the most commonly produced heavy and decorative lacquered cabinets, exemplified by Figures 27, 33 and 34(b), emerged in the 1880s, and the production went on into the early twentieth century. Precise dating is very problematic. However, as a general rule, the later the production was, the poorer the quality became. It is almost certain that cabinets of high quality craftsmanship were produced prior to 1900, before they went out of fashion. On the other hand, objects in more restrained designs, reflecting fashions in the West such as the Aesthetic Movement and Vienna Secession, may be dated around the end of the nineteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century. As for the identification of the production centres, it is even harder since lacquer furniture of similar styles was exported by many producers. Consequently, I shall refrain from making any judgement on this issue at this point.

Marquetry and Parquetry Furniture (26)

The Shoso-in, the imperial storehouse of the Todai-ji in Nara, preserves the royal treasures of Emperor Shomu (701-756). The collection includes several inlaid wood objects. Geometric motifs, figures and animals created with various materials such as rosewood, ebony, box wood, bamboo, ivory and horn are applied to the box. These objects prove that the technique of marquetry was already in practice during this early period in Japan. However, for some reason, marquetry had not been popular for more than a thousand years. This is probably because lacquer was so popular in Japan that not much attention was paid to other techniques. It was at the end of the Edo era when marquetry and parquetry were revitalised and actively pursued in Japan, mainly in Shizuoka and Hakone. The former initiated the revival of parquetry production which was thence transmitted to the latter. Between these two places, located in close vicinity, there were frequent interchanges of craftsmen. During the Meiji era, both centres were actively involved in exporting parquetry and marquetry products to the West.

It is known that the third Shogun, Iemitsu, ordered the construction of the Sengen Shrine in Shizuoka in 1634, and a number of craftsmen from all over the nation were called upon to embellish the shrine with lacquer, gilding, painting and parquetry. Some of them remained in Shizuoka after the completion of the construction and established a stable lacquer industry, and parquetry was used to decorate lacquer wares.(27) Today, however, only a few people acknowledge that Shizuoka used to be a leading producer of marquetry and parquetry works in Japan, and almost no extant documentation is available about their works. This is due to the fact that, whereas Hakone remains the largest producer of parquetry work in Japan even to the present day, this industry in Shizuoka declined gradually from the early twentieth century and had died out completely by around 1930. (28)
Hakone has always been better known for marquetry and parquetry works (collectively, they are called Hakone Zaiku (Hakone works). The mountainous Hakone region located to the west of Yokohama and Tokyo is a popular resort area containing many hot spring villages. Particularly since the 1880s, development of the Hakone area had been undertaken and a large number of hotels and roads were constructed. This contributed to attracting more visitors, and Hakone, which is a dayís journey from Yokohama, became one of the routine destinations for foreign visitors during the Meiji period. This explains why crafts aimed at Japanese and foreign tourists, as well as the export market, were actively produced in Hakone. In addition, its natural environment, abundant in various kinds of woods, was a huge advantage in the production of marquetry and parquetry works.
It is believed that the production of parquetry works in Hakone first took place in the late Edo era. Jinbei Ishikawa is generally regarded as the instigator although little is known about his life except that he died in 1850. (29) Hakone parquetry works were recorded in many literary works of the time including those written by some foreigners. For example, on 6 April 1826, Von Siebold (30) noted in his diary that he saw ëelaborate wood worksí in Hatamura and Yumoto villages in Hakone. (31) From his description, it is not certain whether or not these were parquetry works. However, in Fisscherís (32) diary dated 24 March 1822, it is clearly mentioned that wood works he bought in Yumoto village were mosaic works, i.e., parquetry.
On the other hand, the production of elaborate marquetry in Hakone did not start until the late nineteenth century. It was Senseki Arai (33) who contributed greatly to this development. He entered a large-size pictorial marquetry panel, which he and his father spent two years producing, in the Third Domestic Industrial Exposition held in Tokyo in 1890. The technique used for this panel was rather crude: veneers of various woods were cut by a saw into pieces and inlaid. Therefore, when he had the chance to see Italian marquetry works, the sophisticated workmanship using machinery impressed him very much. From that moment onwards, he started to search for better techniques, and in the early 1890s he invented a veneer cutting machine by attaching a saber saw to a sewing machine. (34) Thanks to this invention, it became possible to cut veneers into shapes, and the production of marquetry works was greatly improved and accelerated in Hakone as well as in Shizuoka.(35)

After this brief history of the Japanese marquetry and parquetry industry, I now move on to the analysis of objects produced during the Meiji era. It should be noted that in this paper the analysis of designs is based mainly on parquetry motifs. Although both marquetry and parquetry were applied onto export furniture, parquetry always dominated designs as opposed to marquetry which appeared as a complementary decoration.

The precise dating of objects is very difficult, however there are some indications: first, a parquetry technique called ran-yosegi (random parquetry) commonly used in the early period between the end of the Edo and the early Meiji era (Figs 41-43). This is a decoration relying on the inherent beauty of grains and natural colours of different woods. Slices of different trees such as zelkova and mulberry were cut into various shapes and then reassembled randomly into one sheet, so that grains of each slice appear more distinctively. In addition, small parquetry works were inlaid on that sheet.(36) Early on such parquetry designs were limited to simple variations. Therefore, objects relying solely on this type of decoration, such as the drawers shown in Figure 41, should be dated as early. (37) Meanwhile, two other small cabinets shown in Figures 42 and 43 are considered to be produced a little later, in the early Meiji period, due to their more sophisticated inlaid parquetry motifs and clearer tone of varnish.(38) In particularly, the cabinet in Figure 43 is almost identical to an object illustrated in the sales catalogue of Liberty & Co., dated in 1881 (14th year of Meiji), supporting later dating of the object (Fig. 44).(39)
Second, more complicated and continuous geometric parquetry patterns emerged around 1875-1878: this was the time when parquetry works in Hakone became well known and began to be produced in quantity.(40) These patterns, deriving from traditional kimono designs, called Edo-komon, became more sophisticated and mechanical as time went on (Figs 45, 46).(41) These pieces, a writing desk (or secretaire cylindre) and a dresser, are excellent examples of Meiji export furniture copying Western furniture precisely and applying Japanese ornamentation to it. The former was a popularly produced item, but the dresser with domed open shelves, galleries and balustrade columns shown in Figure 46 is very unusual, possibly a piece produced for a private commission or for an exhibition. It is adorned with many techniques including parquetry of continuous patterns, pictorial marquetry, ran-yosegi, and carved wood panels. It was catalogued as a production of the Edo period in a recent sale due to the application of ran-yosegi decoration.(42) However, the sophisticated continuous parquetry patterns and the clear tone of varnish indicate a later date.(43)
It is not certain how the producers obtained such a good knowledge of Western furniture designs and construction. The exact designs of these objects are not found in Onchi

Zuroku, though, a rough drawing of a secretaire cylindre, dated c.1881, is included. This kind of object, in the French early Neo-classical style,(44) was produced throughout the nineteenth century in Europe. The Figure 47 shows one that was produced at the end of the eighteenth century in France. Obviously, the Japanese borrowed not only the massive shape of French desks but also the idea of the whole decoration based on geometrical parquetry and naturalistic marquetry reserved in the frame. It is known that the editors of Onchi Zuroku owned French books on furniture and interior decoration, and it is therefore possible that photographs of the furniture produced by such ÈbÈnistes as Jean-FranÁois Oeben,(45) and FranÁois-Gaspard Teune,(46) the maker of the desk shown in Figure 47, were available to Japanese craftsmen.
Identification of the producers of these objects is again very difficult because most were unsigned. (47) In Hakone, no individual names of craftsmen were recorded but there were numerous wholesalers: among them, those actively involved in the export business were Monzaemon Amano, Denpachiro Tsuiki, Shokichi Tanaka, Kokichi Kosuge, all based in Yumoto; Kanbe Uchino and Yasokichi Kagiwada based in Odawara.(48) They all exported marquetry and parquetry wares through trading companies in Yokohama. Moreover, it is known that Hataemon Myogaya from Hatajuku opened his shop in Yokohama as early as 1859.(49) It is interesting to note that, while the most active production centres were Hatajuku and Yumoto villages, Miyanoshita village was better known to foreigners at the time. For example, Liberty & Co. advertised parquetry furniture as ëMiya-no-shita Workí in their sales catalogue dated c. 1891 (Fig. 34(a)).(50) This is because the Fujiya Hotel in Miyanoshita was very popular with foreign visitors, and this name became synonymous with marquetry and parquetry wares.
The majority of marquetry and parquetry works exported to the West were small inexpensive articles such as boxes, drawers and toys. The answer to the questions of who in Hakone produced large furniture in Western style, and when, remains a mystery. J. S. Rein wrote in his book Industries of Japan in 1889:
Now, however, in modern times and with the necessity to furnish the houses of foreigners and natives after European style, artistic cabinet-making has been developed and attempted with growing success, not only in making common furniture, but above all in fine wood mosaic work called intarsia or marquetrie. And in this line the most excellent results were very soon reached. A peculiar kind of wood-working is wrought in the Hakone Mountains, and at Shidzuoka [sic], the capital of Suruga. The cabinets, commodes, and tables ornamented with wood inlaid-work, are very much prized and already many of them are exported.(51)

From this description, we can be certain that a good number of pieces of parquetry furniture had already been delivered to the West by 1889. This implies that such furniture had been sent to the main world exhibitions, the Welt Ausstellung in Vienna in 1873, the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876, and the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1878. Unfortunately, no designs for marquetry and parquetry furniture are included in Onchi Zuroku, leading me to rely on the records of world exhibitions.
However, surprisingly little evidence of Hakoneís involvement is found. The list of exhibits at the Vienna exhibition, for instance, shows that only four parquetry objects were entered by Hakone producers: three small boxes and one small cabinet, sold at 1-2 florins and 32 florins respectively. (52) This suggests that Hakone did not send anything elaborate to this exhibition. When it comes to the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition (1876) and the Exposition Universelle in Paris (1878), no Hakone producers appear in the records.
In point of fact, the report on the Vienna exhibition (1873) made by a senior Japanese officer indicates that the Meiji government called up main craft manufacturers in various categories, and gave them guidance in advance to produce elaborate objects. From the description, it is certain that parquetry and bamboo works in Shizuoka were chosen by the government, whilst no mention is made of Hakone.(53)
The effect of such support from the government is well reflected in the records of world exhibitions. Parquetry work exhibitors from Shizuoka repeatedly come up on these lists, particularly Yasube Yamamoto.(54) At the Vienna exhibition (1873), he entered seventeen parquetry pieces and won prizes. There were two large bookcases, two medium-sized bookcases, two small cabinets, six boxes, four round tables and one parquetry specimen. Everything was sold at the exhibition -- notably, two large bookcases at 700 and 750 florins.(55) These facts testify to the high quality of the objects. As for the Philadelphia exhibition (1876), Yamamoto sent several items of parquetry furniture including one bookcase 136cm high.(56) In addition, he exhibited various items of different materials such as lacquer, bamboo, ivory and straw, with individual craftsmen named on the list. This suggests Yamamotoís position at the time, working as a leading wholesaler, or more likely, as a representative of the whole crafts industry in Shizuoka, since other wholesalers never disclosed craftsmenís names. The list of the Paris exhibition (1878) gives four other names besides Yamamoto of entrants of parquetry furniture from Shizuoka. (57) Furthermore, one craftsman from Tokyo displayed a parquetry bookcase.(58)
This analysis of the participation in world exhibitions strongly suggests that the majority of elaborate furniture in Western style, exemplified by Figures 45 and 46, was produced in Shizuoka. Moreover, rather unusual furniture employing mixed materials such as parquetry, lacquer and bamboo (Fig. 48), was almost certainly produced either in Shizuoka or Tokyo, because lacquer and bamboo craft industries did not exist in Hakone. In this sense, the small work-box sold by Liberty & Co. around 1881 may also have been the product of Shizuoka or Tokyo (Figs 43, 44).(59)
On the other hand, Hakone seems to have concentrated chiefly on exporting more modestly-priced furniture.(60) As shown in the above-mentioned catalogue (1891) in Figure 34(a), Liberty & Co. sold corner and flat cabinets of 168 cm in height (5 ft 6 in) at 8 10s, and those of 137 cm (4 ft 6 in) at 5 5s.(61) Pieces of furniture similar to the cabinet illustrated in the catalogue was sold at Sothebyís Belgravia in May 1980 (Fig. 49). Their quality is not obviously as high as the cabinet and dresser deemed to have been produced in Shizuoka. Moreover, a photograph from the Panama Pacific Exhibition in San Francisco of 1915 shows solely small cabinets for Hakone exhibits (62) confirming my assumption that Hakone was responsible for mainly mass-produced objects. (63)
It is unfortunate that very little has been discovered about Shizuokaís marquetry and parquetry industry: wholesalers such as Yasube Yamamoto must have been in a strong position, being well connected with craftsmen in various fields and aware of Western fashions. They are recorded as having been actively involved in the world exhibitions between 1873 and 1893, though since then, their names vanish from records thereafter. The reasons for this are not certain, but it is probable that furniture relying on geometric parquetry motifs lost its appeal by 1900, when sinuous Art Nouveau designs became fashionable.

Carved Wood Furniture

Wood carving has enjoyed a long tradition in Japanese history, in the same way as marble and stone carving in the West. In essence, the Japanese came to master a great degree of virtuosity in handling wood, because frequent earthquakes inhibited the use of stone as a building material, and also wood was abundant in Japan. Major household items, homes and palaces were mostly made of wood, and temples were particularly lavishly embellished with wood carvings and equipped with wooden sculptures (Figs 50, 51). Ever since the arrival of Buddhism from Korea in the sixth century, alternative materials for sculpture had been introduced to Japan. Bronze, clay and dry lacquer were adopted in the eighth century, but only briefly, whereas stone carving, a major sculptural technique in China, never became popular in Japan. (64) This can not be explained only by earthquake and abundance of wood in Japan: it testifies the Japanese strong natural attachment to wood.
Nevertheless, despite the flourishing of such wood carvings, carved furniture itself was never produced in Japan until the Meiji era, as the Japanese traditional interiors designed to a module system accommodated only rectilinear furniture made in standard sizes, represented by kazari-dana and tansu (Figs 28, 52).(65) Therefore, carved furniture emerged only as a consequence of Westernisation. The carvers and craftsmen who were engaged in Buddhist sculpture moved into a new business. Carved furniture started to be produced more commonly in the 1880s with the construction of a number of diverse Western buildings in Japan. These were either governmental buildings or private mansions, and the furniture produced for them was in turn luxurious and highly elaborate. Such pieces, which were initially produced for domestic use, soon found their way to the export market and world exhibitions.

I have divided this analysis of export carved furniture into three categories. First, that made during the 1870s and 1880s, which displays the earlier Japanese efforts to incorporate traditional carvings into Western shapes. Second, the furniture produced after the 1890s, called ìYokohama Furnitureî or Hamamono (Yokohama products). This overdecorated carved furniture was predominantly made for export. The third category is the carved furniture manufactured by Yamanaka & Co. in Osaka after 1905. As briefly mentioned in the previous chapter, the company distributed very high quality furniture produced in its own factory through its international network.
Carved furniture made during the 1870s and 1880s was mainly sent to world exhibitions. At the Vienna exhibition (1873), Manzo Negishi (66) consigned one bookcase and two dressing tables of zelkova wood, and sold them at 160, 45, and 55 florins respectively.(67) Neither designs nor sizes are recorded; however, by comparison with 750 florins which was paid for the parquetry bookcase by Yamamoto (see above) at the same exhibition, they may not have been particularly important pieces.
The Philadelphia exhibition (1876) accommodated much more carved furniture, particularly that by Manzo Negishi. He entered nine items of cherrywood furniture including a bed, large wardrobe, buffet, mirror frame and a wash stand, for which he was awarded a prize.(68) The detailed designs of all these objects are included in Onchi (Figs 53, 54). Seemingly his wardrobe aroused much attention: it was illustrated in the Illustrated Historical Register in 1879, though without any reference to a maker (Fig. 55).(69) In a separate section about Japanese exhibits, it is mentioned that there is a wardrobe in carved walnut which surpasses anything of the kind in the Italian court, which must indicate this wardrobe.(70) The same source also remarked that a carved bedstead, with a beautiful silk covering and pillow-shams, is priced $1,000 which is again likely to be that by Negishi shown in Figure 54.(71)
These objects were apparently designed specifically for the export market: they are too decorative for native Japanese tastes. Yet, they still remained more rectilinear and restrained than such sculptural furniture emerging later in the 1890s. In other words, these were the transitional designs between simpler Japanese taste and a more exuberant taste. For example, an upright wardrobe (Fig. 55) would look rather simple were it not surmounted by the sculptural carved crest. The pictorial designs carved on the body were traditional Japanese motifs: torn lotus leaves on the sides are images symbolising autumn; a bamboo grove and sparrows are traditionally associated.
Comparing these two elements a rectilinear body and a gaudy crest one may not consider them well-balanced. Hypothesis is that this crest was added by somebody other than the original designer. It should be recalled that some Onchi designs were indeed made by craftsmen, but officers subsequently checked them and, if necessary, modified designs in accordance with Western taste. In fact, when examining the drawing of the wardrobe closely (Fig. 53), we see the crest is defined by a dotted line which appears awkwardly outside the frame. Moreover, in the case of the bed (Fig. 54), the curved parts projecting from the rectangular carcass of the bed are indicated by dotted lines, and again the crest protrudes from the frame. Without these sculptural panel, the bed would appear much more conservative. I believe these analyses justify my hypothesis.
It should be noted here, however, that the designs of such ornamental crests were also taken from those traditional Japanese carvings which adorn shrines and temples. The carved triangular part below gables, called hafuka in Japanese, may have been the model (Fig. 56).(72) Crests in this style became assimilated not only into carved furniture, but also in lacquer and other furniture of the late Meiji era.
Moving on to Hamamono carved furniture, words such a ìsculpturalî, ìflashyî, ìgrotesqueî and ìuniqueî spring to mind. The majority of Meiji export crafts reveal features similar to those of the Western Baroque fashion. Hamamono, however, appears absolutely the foremost amongst them: in other words, synonymous with Meiji Baroque.(73)
It was first produced in Yokohama either by Haruo Numashima (74) or Houjiro Shinohara (75) around 1890. Similar to the situation with lacquer, Yokohama held a good number of skilled carvers who mainly moved from Kamakura, a nearby town clustered with temples. This new fashion attained a huge popularity in Europe and the USA, in the 1900s and many other producers followed, notably those in Osaka, Tokyo, and Nikko.(76) This fad, however, died out soon after the end of the Meiji era.(77) In this sense, Hamamono carved wood furniture sometimes called sculptural furniture is unique to Meiji exports.
There were two reasons why Hamamono disappeared: Westerners had had enough of its outlandish appearance, and its quality declined towards the end of the Meiji era, with its carvings becoming rougher and woods unseasoned.(78) The advertisement of Arthur & Bond, a leading curio shop in Yokohama, in The Japan Gazette on 17 July 1908, explains the situation well: they claimed to be the only manufacturers in Japan of THOROUGHLY SEASONED (kiln dried) CHERRY WOOD FURNITURE. (79)
Few Hamamono pieces were signed, making their identification is difficult. Every kind of furniture was produced with a variety of motifs: dragons with ivory eyes and clouds or clutching crystal spheres, Greek key border, ho-o birds, flowers (typically iris, cherry, and chrysanthemum), Mt. Fuji, turtles and fish. The best seller of all was probably a chair with a scrolling dragoní back and dragon shaped legs (Fig. 57). This unsigned piece owned by Meadow Brook Hall is known to have been purchased by John Dodge (1854-1920), an early pioneer of the automobile industry, sometime before 1916. (80) The Peabody and Essex Museum in Salem also holds a similar dragon chair which is signed by Tomekichi Suzuki (81) in Yokohama (Fig. 58). Judging from the limited information available about him, it is likely to have been produced at the end of the Meiji era. Many other companies produced this type of chair. For example, Arthur & Bond advertised on 9 March 1911 in The Japan Gazette the dragon chair manufactured in their own factory: it was made of katsura, a soft wood particular to Japan and China, and priced at 10. (82) In addition, Yamanaka & Co. also produced dragon chairs at their factory started in 1905. (83)
Another ubiquitous chair is that carved with flower motifs, particularly iris (Fig. 59). This cinnabar throne chair is lacquered and its carving is of an excellent quality.(84) The owner claims this was a piece produced for the Chicago exhibition (1893). Although this is not backed by any official documents, the iris motifs incorporated on the back and arms apparently display French Art Nouveau influence, which, together with its superior quality, makes the assumption plausible. Another iris chair, illustrated in Figure 60 is a similar shape to dragon chairs, with cabriolet legs and a rounded back, but made in a more feminine manner.(85) Mt. Fuji was also very popularly incorporated into Hamamono furniture (Fig. 61). (86) As is often the case with Hamamono, this set of writing desk and chair is decorated with a variety of other motifs, i.e. turtles, fish, dragons and birds.
By the early twentieth century, numerous pieces of furniture in these styles had been exported to the West. An American magazine, Suburban Life (February 1912), asserted that ìThe beauty of oriental hand-carved teakwood and Japwood furniture is well recognized. Moreover, the photographs from the Japan-British Exhibition (1910) demonstrate that a number of pieces were sent from Yokohama and Masakichi Takamatsu was prized for his carved furniture (Fig. 62). (87) Hamamono carved furniture was at its peak of popularity: the Official Report of the exhibition mentioned the section devoted to furniture and upholstery, which gave some splendid specimens of carved chairs, cabinets, and tables, as well as other articles adapted for Western homes, was exceedingly interesting.
Yamanaka & Co. also received an award for its furniture at this exhibition. At its factory in Osaka, about a hundred craftsmen from Kanazawa, another famous temple town in Japan, were employed. They researched the tastes of the West and created very different kinds of carved furniture to suit their wealthy patrons in the West. Very often their chairs were upholstered with gilded leather (called kinkarakawa in Japanese) or with brocade made in Kyoto (Figs 63, 64). Various wood were used such as mulberry, camphor, cherrywood, maple, zelkova, and chestnut. (88) Since this furniture was so unusual, I believe much of it has not been recognised as Japanese export furniture. The gilded armchair in Figure 64, for example, is in the late French Neo-classical (89) style and does not display typical features of Japanese export furniture, therefore it could have been considered as a Western product.

Western furniture influenced by Japanese export carved furniture apparently had less of an impact than lacquer furniture. (90) There were, however, some examples. The mahogany bed in Figure 65 was designed by Benn Pitman, (91) c.1883. It has wood panels naturalistically carved with flowers and birds, set in restrained frames with Gothic arches, which display the features of Japanese carvings exported around this time.

In summary, the rough dating of carved furniture can be established by its stylistic changes from the restrained to the flamboyant. Unlike lacquer furniture which at the end of the Meiji era inclined towards more controlled shapes, carved furniture tended to be even gaudier. This is evident from the photographs of carved furniture sent to the Panama Pacific Exhibition in San Francisco (1915): the carving had become more complicated and three dimensional. It seems rather ironic that the crafts ornamented with Japanese traditional wood carvings had gone to such extremes and created curious objects, the origin of which few Japanese can identify. This is the reason why carved furniture became the most ignored and forgotten of Meiji export works of art.

Furniture Decorated with Cloisonne / Enamel

It is commonly said that the first cloisonne enamel in Japan was produced by a metal engraver in Kyoto, Donin Hirata (1591-1646). He mastered the techniques introduced by Korean craftsmen in the early seventeenth century, and the Hirata family became a provider of cloisonne enamel sword fittings (chiefly guards) to the Tokugawa government. (92) However, cloisonne enamel was rarely used on other items until 1832, when Tsunekichi Kaji (1803-1883) in Owari, near Nagoya in Aichi prefecture, closely examined a tray brought by the Dutch and succeeded in reproducing a cloisonne enamel dish all by himself. He and his apprentices established a strong cloisonne enamel industry in Owari, and their village was later renamed Shippo-mura (CloisonnÈ Village).(93)
In 1871, the Shippo Kaisha was set up in Nagoya, and they actively exported cloisonne wares to the West. (94) Besides Nagoya, there were three other major cloisonne enamel production centres during the Meiji era: Kyoto, Tokyo, and Kanagawa. Amongst the makers, Yasuyuki Namikawa (95) in Kyoto and Sosuke Namikawa (96) in Tokyo were the two leaders in this industry.
The production of Japanese cloisonne enamel increased rapidly from less than 1,000 in 1873 to approximately 28,000 in 1880. (97) For five years after this, the industry experienced a severe setback caused by the deterioration in the quality of its products, just as in the case of the lacquer industry. Then production recovered to 4,800 in 1895. (98) The cloisonne enamel industry had, however, slowed down significantly in the 1910s both in the home and export markets. This was mainly due to the loss of the above-mentioned two prominent leaders in the industry. (99)
The early cloisonne enamel pieces can be distinguished by their styles. Those produced in the 1870s were characterised by their crowded and abstract designs, strong Chinese influence, and subdued colourings. These were gradually replaced by more elegant designs with spacious monochromatic backgrounds and brighter colours. This change was achieved through technical advances. A German chemist, Gottfried von Wagner, was a great contributor in this area: he introduced the Western style enamel glaze to Japan in around 1876. (100) This finer glaze had made possible the production of cloisonne enamel with fewer wires and thus more pictorial designs.
The majority of cloisonne enamel wares were small objects such as vases, boxes, and dishes. Furniture decorated with cloisonne enamel was quite rare, and it seems to have emerged first at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition (1876). The cabinet in Figure 66, owned by a private collector in Oxford, is one of the most exceptional and exquisite pieces of cloisonne enamel furniture. The drafts for this piece are included in Onchi (Figs 67, 68), which proves that this was made for the Philadelphia exhibition. This piece was carved by Manzo Negishi, who sent many items of carved furniture to this exhibition as previously mentioned; and the cloisonne enamel panels were made for Shoroku Fukihara, (101) a merchant based in Tokyo. (102) The cabinet is, however, signed Toshichika Shimamura on the side of the carved body. Nothing about this person is known, therefore it is uncertain whether he was responsible for the cloisonne enamel or the wood carving. The design of the cloisonne enamel applied on this cabinet displays the characteristics of an earlier style of production: crowded geometrical motifs in muted colours. This design with ho-o birds and stylised flowers, called houzouge in Japanese, derived from traditional Chinese motifs, which are also quite typical of the early cloisonne enamel.
On the other hand, the display cabinet shown in Figure 69 is a good example of the later production, of around 1890. This is confirmed not only by its pictorial designs and the bright colouring of the cloisonne enamel, but also by its decorative wood carvings. When compared to the lacquer furniture advertised by Liberty in 1891 (Figs 33, 34(b)), it is obvious that this cloisonne enamel cabinet exactly follows their manner. The pierced wood crest, especially, typifies the production of after the 1880s.

1 It is recorded that 560 lacquerers were working in Yokohama in 1897. See Tamotsu Tsuyuki, ed., Hakone no Bussanshi (History of Hakoneís Principal Products) (Odawara: Hakone Bussan Rengo, 1978), 86.2

Chapter I - Introduction
Chapter II - Pre-Meiji Export Furniture
Chapter III - Social Context in the Meiji Era
Chapter IV - Meiji Export Furniture
Chapter V - Conclusions
Appendix - Footnotes