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Introduction to OJIME

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Introduction to OJIME

Postby AFNetsuke » Sat Apr 02, 2016 1:09 am

Introduction to Ojime

This Forum is about the "beads" that are placed on the cord (himo) between the sagemono (hanging object) and netsuke.
Ojime are used to cinch down the cords passing to whatever sagemono hangs below the obi (sash) in order to keep it closed. It slides up easily when one needs to open the sagemono, be it an inro, money pouch, tabako-ire, (tobacco box/container).

Many ojime are very simple bead type items made from various materials. Commonly used materials would be ivory, metal, or wood. Less common are coral, glass, hardstones, lacquer over a base material, and the like. Whether carved, decorated, or just a plain smoothed bead, the ojime was a necessary item for the en suite sagemono and netsuke and likely were matched in some way to complement color, design, or subject matter. However, sometimes it is difficult to understand the native Japanese pairing of these items without having a deep understanding of the Japanese culture and taste of the times. Some ojime, generally ivory, have a metal liner in the drilled hole and frequently have decorative treatment around the outside of the hole through which the cord passes.

While Ojime were, only a couple of decades ago, a relatively cheap addition to collections, there were exceptions. Those created by the best metal workers' productions (by sword furniture makers out of business when the wearing of swords was banned), ivory carvings by the most skilled netsuke carvers, or rare and expensive materials such as precious metals have always fetched a premium. The majority of original en suite sets were broken up to harvest only the netsulke or inro. As a result, collectors could inexpensively assemble strings of ojime into attractive necklaces if they were not needed to pair with netsuke and sagemono. One may still find necklaces or strings of ojime available from dealers or occasionally auctions as well as individual pieces that can be utilized.

One of the reasons ojime may not be as popular as netsuke is that the small format is difficult to see without magnification. To really appreciate these items, they must be slowly turned to view the entire surface. This may reveal an unfolding story or scene that otherwise would have been overlooked. Occasionally, they may turn up in unexpected ways, such as being converted into a jewelry item. If not recognized as being an ojime, they may be passed over as "just another bead". Please use this Forum to show your prized pieces and discuss the myriad of subjects they depict which are as varied as those of the articles they were meant to be married to.
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Gold and Silver Ojime with Dragonfly
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Simple metal barrel with copper Suzume
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Scene carved in ivory/metal himotoshi liner

Shibayama inlaid ivory Ojime signed on mother of pearl plaque

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