- Object description and manufacturing process
- The origin of the goblet and its craftsmen
- Inspiration drawn from nature
- Inspiration and objects of comparison from Japan
- Inspiration and objects of comparison from other parts of Asia
- Inspiration and objects of comparison from Europe
- Inspiration and objects of comparison with European roots in Japan
- The collector and the goblets way from Japan to Europe
- Table of Figures
Exhibited together with the other Japanese objects, the woven bamboo and lacquered lidded goblet of Fisscher’s collection might at first sight not stand out. The visitor, who is not acquainted to Japanese material culture, might be more attracted to lavishly decorated and shiny lacquer containers or tiny and surprising Netsuke – the collector Fisscher, as a connoisseur of Japanese objects, bought two of the goblets 200 years ago on his court journey.
On one hand he might have been driven by the prospect of making a pretty good business when selling the collection back in Holland.
On the other hand he collects such a divers range of items that he presumably gains a certain affection to things Japanese. Still, he always keeps an eye on a good price as well as on outstanding quality and not least he chooses objects with interesting characteristics, such as the bamboo plaited outside and the red- lacquered finish on the inside of the goblet – not to speak of the shape. Apparently, Fisscher was the only one buying and then exporting this type of goblet, as no other example can be found in any other published collection, neither in Japan nor in the rest of the world. Of course one has to consider, that even though the combination of materials – bamboo and red lacquer – was attractive to the buyer, the shape of our goblet was so unexpected and exotic, that the artisan probably only produced a small number. Furthermore, bamboo is a perishable material. Insects, mould and of course usage as an everyday object may cause a total disappearance from the spectrum of Japanese material culture. Hence, no same goblet survived the centuries in Japan itself. In addition, only a small number of similar objects are present in international collections. This lack of objects of comparison hinders a comparative research.
Nevertheless, in his own account (Fisscher 1833, p. 300) on the court journey he performs in 1822, he alludes to the city Fuchû or the Hakone region as the place of purchase. Fisscher regards both of them as places where high quality basket works are sold, which narrows the search of the place of purchase down to those cities. Both cities are located on the northern part of the Tôkaidô, with a distance of about 100 km between them. One of Fissher’s predecessors, E. Kaempfer points out the importance of the city Fuchû in regards to woven goods (Kaempfer 1733, p. 360). But as Fisscher writes, that he left Fuchû after price negotiations empty-handed and just a few days later adds, that the prices in the Hakone Mountain villages Hatajuku and Yumoto are so convincing, that he bought “delicately processed basket- and lacquer works” (Fisscher 1833, p. 302), he probably buys our goblet there.
Another fact argues for Hakone as place of origin of our goblet. Not only operated Hakone as a major checkpoint on the Tôkaidô, it is also cherished for its onsen (hot springs). Thus beside merchants travelling to Edo, Hakone draws tourists to enjoy the warm water. Print designer Torii Kiyonaga apparently visited Hakone as well, in order to sketch the seven hot springs, published in his homonymous series. One print of this series, sokokuro, shows a Western wine glass with a handle. In another series he depicts a Western wine glass on the triptych ookawabata rou ue no tsukimi. It is not traceable where Kiyonaga saw this type of glass and the same is true for the craftsman of our goblet. Oranda shumi causes quite a stir in the second half of the 18th ct. Hence, Western forms and fashion reach Japan and have a visible impact on material culture. But the idea of a lidded and footed goblet is also evident in Japan itself and other parts of Asia, where those containers are used for religious ceremony. Yet, both – examples from East and West – fail to bear comparison with our goblet. Both lack due to different materials and/or processing the fluent shape, evident in our goblet. The Japanese and also the other Asian examples are considerably bulbous, which leads to different proportions. Even though footed, their general alignment is more horizontally. The above-mentioned Burmese example even exaggerates this horizontality by jutting rims. The European glass containers are in contrast to the “Asian” examples aligned vertically. Our goblet on the other hand, seems vertically aligned when looked upon from a distance but surprisingly horizontal, when examined from close-up. This contradiction is possible and caused by the material, the plaiting technique and of course the craftsman. The material bamboo, selected for our goblet, has inherent qualities that allow a vertical alignment easily. The structure of woven bamboo can stay flexible and yet strong. By choosing the appropriate plaiting technique the artisan still can imbed a horizontal character, which is visible from close.
Thus, Japanese as well as Europeans can see something familiar in this goblet, and at the same time it has an exotic, yet inviting appearance. It presents a free interpretation of indigenous and foreign (Western) shapes.
We may even take Karatani Kôjin’s thoughts on Okakura Tenshin (Karatani 1964/65, p. 49f) into account and extend it to the West: Japan has the great privilege to preserve what is originated elsewhere. It becomes a repository and welcomes the new, without losing the old.
Thus the woven bamboo and lacquer goblet not only catches one’s interest with its intriguing appearance but also as an ethnological object, presenting a link between materials and function on one hand and Japan and Europe on the other.