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Incense container, wood covered in black lacquer with gold nashiji and takamaki-e lacquer, gilded copper fittings, a design of plum blossoms by a stream with frogs and a warbler (uguisu), probably about 1550-1600
Incense box in the form of a raft with flowers, mid-19th century
Set of boxes for storing incense wood, late 19th-early 20th century

A k?bako () is an incense storage box used in k?d? (, "Way of Incense"), the traditional Japanese art which involves using and appreciating incense within a structure of codified conduct. It can be used to store the items needed for the incense-comparing games.[1] called kumik? () and genjik? (). The similar word kobako (; note the short o rather than long ? in the first syllable) means "small box" in Japanese.

The k?bako is somewhat similar to a k?g?, an incense box used in the Japanese tea ceremony. However, "the k?bako was usually a little larger than the k?g?, and sometimes had a small tray or small boxes to go with it."[2]

Often decorated with lacquer and showing a high degree of craftmanship, k?bako are studied and collected by those who appreciate Japanese arts and crafts.[3][4][5][6]

Related meanings

The rugged S?unky? Gorge in Japan's Daisetsuzan National Park has an area of "fantastic crags".[7] "The narrowest section of the gorge is called Kobako, or "Small Box", because of the enclosed feeling imparted by the towering rock pillars shooting up from the riverbanks." [8]

In 1936, Bourjois introduced a perfume called Kobako, which was packaged in a container "inspired by an old lacquered cabinet".[9] The perfume, described as a "Chypre Floral fragrance", is still on the market.[10]

According to Kunihiko Kasahara, there is a traditional origami pattern called a Tsuno Kobako, which is identified as a "folded pouch for perfume". This paper folding pattern goes back at least to 1734, when it appeared in a book called Ranma Zushiki.[11]

K?bako is a slang term for "vagina" in Japanese. It is among several such slang terms for the vagina that "have flourished since the Edo period, and have been sharpened by centuries of persistent use".[12]


  1. ^ Dick, Stewart (1905). Arts and crafts of old Japan. A.C. McClurg & Co. p. 131.
  2. ^ Bincsik, Monika (2006). "K?g? and K?bako as "Objets de Vitrine" in Europe during the Second Half of the 19th Century". Arts of Asia. Hong Kong: Arts of Asia. 36.
  3. ^ Bushell, Raymond (1979). The inr? handbook: studies of netsuke, inr?, and lacquer. Weatherhill.
  4. ^ Stern, Harold P. (1972). The magnificent three: lacquer, netsuke, and tsuba: selections from the Collection of Charles A. Greenfield. New York, New York: Japan Society.
  5. ^ Okada, Barbra Teri (1983). A sprinkling of gold: the lacquer box collection of Elaine Ehrenkranz. Newark, New Jersey: Newark Museum. p. 134.
  6. ^ Tachau, Hannah (June 1914). "The Collector's Scrap Book: Old Lacquer". House Beautiful. New York, New York. p. 94. Retrieved 2011.
  7. ^ "Soun-kyo Gorge". Japan National Tourism Organization.
  8. ^ Dodd, Jan; Richmond, Simon (2001). The rough guide to Japan. London: Rough Guides. p. 353. ISBN 978-1-85828-699-0.
  9. ^ "Crystal". Arts & Decoration, Volume 45. Adam Bunge. 1937.
  10. ^ "Kobako Bourjois for women". Fragrantica Perfume Encyclopedia. Fragrantica. 2006-2011. Retrieved 2011.
  11. ^ Kasahara, Kunihiko (2005). The Art and Wonder of Origami. Bloomington, Indiana: Quarry Books. pp. 50-56. ISBN 978-1-59253-213-1.
  12. ^ Constantine, Peter (1994). Japanese Slang: Uncensored. Clarendon, Vermont: Tuttle Publishing. p. 94. ISBN 978-4-900737-03-7.

External links

Media related to K?bako at Wikimedia Commons

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