Ivory Okimono of a Rice Merchant | 19th Century | Meiji Period

After the 1700s, Osaka and Kyoto had become the mercantile center of Japan. While some commodities, such as rice and sake could be transported easily in a cart and in baskets across the rough and dangerous roads and through city streets, and transported by the individual farmers.

Thus, a system of rice warehouses arose, evolving naturally out of the rice store houses (kura) which formed a part of this trade network. Centered in Osaka, the rice merchant bought the daimyo’s rice and issued paper bills, representations of value, in exchange. Many merchants throughout the country were willing to exchange the paper bills for metal coins or bars, recognizing that the Osaka brokers would take back the bills, as payment for rice.

Economic developments among the rice merchants were intricately connected to parallel developments in other trades and became popular subjects for all forms of folk art, including ivory, wood carving, and woodblock prints. This piece is signed by the craftsman, Ohdou. Dimensions: 6″h x 2-3/4″w x 2-3/4″d

NOTE: Thanks to preservation efforts, animals and endangered materials (e.g. ivory and rare woods) are conservatively used today, if not banned altogether. However, we recognize that these materials have been important since ancient times for making a wide range of functional and decorative items. We only feature antique ivory and rare tree species because, while we support conservation, we truly feel that the experience and appreciation of historic artifacts should also be preserved.

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