Okay, Friends of Okinawa - here's a new mystery. See what you know about this and want to say...

Friday, March 02, 2007 6:46 PM
From: Joe P.
To: ClickOkinawa.com

Hello Mick,
How's it going in the big country out west?

You helped me before with my father's sketch of Nakagusuku castle and I have another mystery on my hands. After my father left Okinawa in November of 1945, he sailed to Korea where he stayed until December 5th of that year. He then sailed home to be discharged after a 5 year run in the army. He brought some sort of a jewelry box home. He either picked it up in Okinawa or Korea.

My mother gave it to me last month and I cannot figure out exactly what it is. It has inside of it a couple of pieces that are quite odd. The art on the cover seems to be a Japanese samurai scene but I am not sure. Were there Korean warriors that wore similar attire? I know that Japan occupied Korea for several decades before the end of the war so it wouldn't be surprising that Japanese art would've been found in Korea. Or could this be from Okinawa? I have included some photos.

Thanks again Mick and I love the web site.
Joe Pizzimenti

[Photo #1][Photo #2][Photo #3][Photo #4]

... and I replied:

Friday, March 02, 2007 10:22 PM
From: Mick @ ClickOkinawa.com
To: Joe

Hi, Joe!
Well, lemme take a shot at this...

At first pass, Joe, it could very well be Okinawan. Okinawa is renowned for its artisans who produce world-class lacquerware.

There is little doubt in my mind that this is lacquerware. I would venture a guess that your article depicted in these photos is of light weight, handpainted material and probably has an almost plastic feel and appearance.

Again, going on first impression and best guess I might suggest that it is a lunch box. There are myriad varieties of such boxes, AKA "bento-no hako." Typically there are 2 or 3 such boxes that can be "stacked" on top of each other then bound up in what we would call a handkerchief. The stack of boxes, each containing different foods - one for gohan (steamed rice), one for vegetables or, of course, a great favorite, noodles.

Those little compartments at one end of the tray are typically for putting sauces or horse-radish (wasabi), ginger or other condiments.

The stack is set in the center of a spread-out handkerchief then the four corners of the fabric are pulled together and knotted over the top to keep them in place. Once ready to eat the handkerchief can be used as a table-cloth, as a napkin or for any other purpose that a large square of fabric may be called upon to serve.

Now, having said all of that, let me do a little more research and - here's the kicker, Joe, - I'll post your photos and your inquiry along with my 2-cents' worth on the site and see if we can get some other opinions. Lord knows, there are folks out there who know a whole lot more about this than I.

So, thank you again for starting out a week-end with a head-scratcher!
I love it!
Mata ne,

Mon 2/1/2010 6:41 PM
Joe P. [jazzman500@comcast.net]

Hello Mick,

You helped me when I was identifying a sketch my father made of Nakagusuku Castle during WW2. You also introduced me to a man named Alex Kishaba, who proved to be very helpful as well. Please keep me on your email list. I've identified so many of the sites my father was at during and after WW2, that I couldn't begin to tell you in this short message.

Next time you're surfing the net, Google Dap-dong Cathedral in Inchon, Korea. My father wrote about it in November of 1945, right after leaving Okinawa. He never mentioned it by name, but the evidence from his description of it's location in the city leaves no doubt. Just as my father wrote, you can see it from the harbor of Inchon because it sits on top of a small hill. He wrote that it was a Catholic Church and that he attended mass there on the day that was Thanksgiving 1945 back in the states.(I think it was Nov.22)

Take care Mick!
Joe Pizzimenti

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