Gun powder container
Abalone shell (awabi), red and black lacquer
7 cm x 12.5 x 16.5(h) cm
Edo period, 18th-19th century

A rare gun powder container made with abalone shells. The surface of the shells were scraped and polished. The colour of inside revealed is stunning as a jewel. The lacquer was used to connect two shells and to decorate and stuff up the holes. A net bag and a silver lid are original. It is interesting that the bag is like a fisherman’s net. The abalone shell is quite hard to break, so it might have been useful to make such a container. However there are very few examples still.

In Japan, abalone (awabi) is an auspicious symbol synonymous with good fortune. Its flesh is cut into thin strips and dried (noshi), which are then wrapped in strips of white paper.