Kasama Shuseki, red and gold vase with designs of zodiac

Kasama Shuseki    笠間 秀石

red and gold vase (flower container) with designs of zodiac

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

condition of the work : no chips and cracks on surface, but dirt and cracks on the bottom

In Japanese tea ceremony, “花入れ” (flower container) is a kind of vase, but it is differentiated from vase in usage because it has to be in line with the atmosphere of tearoom where people can enjoy the calm or the beautifulness of the tearoom when a host of tea party entertains guests. So, the shape is expected to be preferably small or slender.

Six windows (flames) on this flower container are cut out fully, and the auspicious designs of Japanese zodiac are drawn in each window. And narrow space outside the windows is painted with rust and gold. It is imagined that the host wish to entertain quietly the gusts by this decorated small flower container in the tearoom.

The master craftsmen of the Meiji period had a high level of culture and knowledge about historical facts, also Shuseki added another design related to each zodiac and created designs that represented the prosperity for the progeny and the house, longevity, successful career, etc.

Perhaps it can be imagined that this flower container might be a paired set, because Japanese zodiac is configured of 12 animals and 7th to 12th animals are not drawn on this flower container.


The design of “mouse and rice bran” means that mouse (1st of zodiac) is a prolific creature, so, means the prosperity for the progeny, also the rice bran means celebration of the rich harvest of rice. Each design expresses these desires such as these designs.

Shuseki created this combined design of rabbits (4th of zodiac) looking up at full moon. Since the old days, stories and legends that talked about the moon and rabbit were often transmitted, and it seems this creator chose the above design.


The design of cattle (2nd of zodiac) and plum reminds people of Tenmangu Shrine (Fukuoka prefecture), which is a shrine dedicated to Sugawara Michizane and famous for cattle statue and plum blossoms. In addition, Sugawara Michizane is the “God of academic studies”, so the painters also expressed their desire to pray for their skill mastery. Or, it seems to be related to a historical fact that the Kaga Maeda family was self-proclaimed to be the descendant of Sugawara Michizane.

In detail, I don’t know this combination for the snake (6th of zodiac) and chrysanthemum, but it is said that chrysanthemum was used as a condiment for the “snake soup” that was eaten in the festival of September (September 9th). It is possible that this creator knew about that eating habit. However, it seems too early to think that this creator incorporated it into the design for that eating habit, and it seems to be necessary to study other meanings.

The meaning of the dragon (5th of zodiac) and Mt. Fuji has been drawn from long ago and this design also was drawn by Katsushika Hokusai. This design means wishing for the development of the family business and the prosperity of the house or successful career by drawing a scene that the dragon is rising vigorously beyond Mt. Fuji.

As for the design of tiger (3th of zodiac) and bamboo leaf, the tiger means the drunk and, the bamboo leaf means Japanese sake (it seems to be in the wife’s words). So, it is said that the tiger and the bamboo leaf come with together. Also, in Ko-kutani are familiar designs that combine tiger with bamboo leaf, so this creator might learn from them.

Shuseki’s another name is “Sanpu-do” (三布堂) and “san-pu” (read as “mino”) means that various fabrics are combined to create new products. It is imagined that he worked hard on the production of Meiji kutani, and created many Meiji kutani with innovative design. At the same time, he was one of Kutani Shoza’s higher disciples, so he might wish to associate with Shoza.

about creator Kasama Shuseki  笠間 秀石

Kasama Shuseki’s birth year?  death 1895

Kasama Shuseki got started with Kutani Shoza around 1877 and after he learned from Shoza and supported Shoza, he was called one of higher disciples of Shoza. After the death of Shoza, Shusei returned to Kanazawa to start his own painting business and created many Meiji kutani mainly in red and gold. His history of painting was appreciated, he was also said to be one of the master craftsmen of Meiji kutani.

reference № 18112405
date of exhibition 2019.11.23
selling and buying under consideration