Title:Tobacco TrayArtist:Artist UnknownDate:Edo periodCreation Place:JapanCredit Line:Gift of the Friends of the InstituteAccession Number:2002.141.4
Portuguese traders first introduced tobacco to Japan in the 16th century. After repeated attempts to ban its use, the government legalized its cultivation in 1625. Throughout the Edo period, Japanese used long pipes with small bowls, which when filled with finely shredded tobacco, afforded the smoker a puff or two. Tobacco trays held a small brazier with burning charcoal--used to light the pipe--and a container half filled with water into which the exhausted contents of the pipe could be safely emptied. Tea masters placed tobacco sets in the waiting arbors and anterooms used by their guests prior to tea ceremonies. This ceramic example imitates the construction of wooden tobacco boxes, but is sumptuously decorated with trailing gourd vines rendered in overglaze blue, green and gold enamels and reticulated (cut-out) gourd shapes.