A Japanese lacquered and mother-of-pearl inlaid copper tobacco box with a scene of two ladies playing the koto and the shamisen
Kyoto-Nagasaki style, 1800-1830
H. 2.5 x W. 13.2 x D. 7.8 cm
The koto is a long box-like hollow body of paulownia wood over which thirteen silk or tetoron strings are attached. The performer places the instrument in front and uses the first three fingers of his right hand while his left hand manipulates the movable struts placed under the strings to determine the pitch. The koto is of Chinese origin where it was an extremely prestigious instrument associated with Chinese literati culture. It was introduced into Japan during the Nara period (710-794).
The shamisen, played by the lady on the left, is the most commonly used instrument in Japanese music. It was introduced in Japan during the Eiroku period (1558-1570), from the Ryũkyũ islands.
In spite of having only three strings, the shamisen is capable of producing a wide variety of sounds.
The band, obi, of the kimono of the lady on the left has the colours of the Dutch flag.