Incense box decorated with stylized flowers, 16th century

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Tea masters collected small boxes made of wood, lacquered wood, ceramic, metal, or bamboo for holding incense used in the tea ceremony. Particularly prized were small lacquered boxes originally used by aristocrats for holding a substance made from a mixture of iron and other minerals that was used for blackening the teeth (haguro), a common cosmetic custom among men and women in classical and medieval Japan. This box is decorated with stylized flowers (hanabishi) within hexagonal tortoiseshell shapes (kikō), a pattern adopted from textile designs.

Incense box decorated with stylized flowers
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