What is this tiny antique Japanese item supposed to be?
November 28, 2018 4:03 PM   Subscribe

A tiny old Japanese charm or pendant, but I can't figure out what it's meant to be.

It came in a box lot of old jewelry at a sale last week and had a tiny dealers tag which read "Japanese 19th C". I believe it to be ivory with shell inlay. There is a wedge of looks like ebony down one side. But what is it supposed to be? I thought perhaps some sort of percussion instrument but Japanese drums are apparently all round.

I should have included a coin for scale, it is just over 1" long. It's much too small to be a netsuke.

Mystery item
posted by antiquated to Grab Bag (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Can you provide a picture of it on a darker background, possibly from a different angle?

The image to me suggests a moon rabbit but that’s just my interpretation.
posted by shalom at 6:03 PM on November 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I don't know what your object is, but does this description from the Metropolitan Museum of Art sound like it's in the ballpark? "In order to carry small items such as tobacco, medicine, and seals, ingeniously constructed sagemono (a collective term for “hanging things”) were suspended on cords that hung from the obi sash." An image search of "sagemono" turns up items that are similar in spirit to your mystery object. I hope someone knows what this thing is--interesting!
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:03 PM on November 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Check out inro.
posted by dancing leaves at 6:56 PM on November 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

If it's that small, could it be something for a doll?
posted by zengargoyle at 6:56 AM on November 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Miniature pipe/cigarette case? See the first example.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:46 AM on November 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

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