Kobayashi Rekisai was a craftsman who created surprisingly elaborate miniatures in the Taisho and prewar periods. Rekisai was originally a creator of gebori ivory handicrafts, including netsuke (button-like carvings) for tabakoire tobacco pouches and kiseru pipe cases.
The era in which Rekisai lived saw great changes in the Japanese lifestyle, including clothing shifting from Japanese-style to Western-style. Craftsmen who made gebori, metalwork, and lacquerwork accessories for clothes lost an outlet for their art, but this helped contribute to the involvement of Rekisai and other highly skilled craftsmen in creating miniatures.
The Tobacco & Salt Museum has held a total of four exhibitions focused on miniatures, and these exhibitions have focused on Kobayashi Rekisai’s era and the context in which these miniatures were made. As we held more exhibitions, we were donated more miniatures created in the Meiji through the prewar periods, and our collection now totals around 1,500 items. Of these, around 800 are order-made miniatures, including some by Rekisai. The materials used to make these miniatures were carefully selected, and the pieces truly demonstrate the craftsmen’s unsurpassed technique and skill. If a miniature has a door or drawer, it will actually open, even if the item is just a few centimeters large. Even if a top is a millimeter in size, it will spin just like the real thing.
This is the first miniature exhibition since the Tobacco & Salt Museum was relocated to Sumida Ward. These works are so small that it may tire your eyes to look at them, but we welcome you to take a good look at all of the beautiful miniatures in our collection.