Hidari Issan (1804-1857)
Iwashiro, circa 1840
A three-case carved wood inro, one side bears a design of a kirin with long swirling whiskers seated on its haunches with its head turned skywards and its foreleg raised. A reishi fungus sprouting from behind a rock. On the obverse a ho-o bird (phoenix) swoops down towards an aogiri tree (firminia simplex), the Chinese parasol tree, also referred to as the phoenix tree. The celestial bird’s head is pulled back and crest displayed to lend it a majestic air. Both creatures have horn eyes banded with gilt-metal. Much of the ground is densely stippled. The ojime comprises a pair of confronting turtles, representing another of the celestial animals, guardian of the North quadrant. Cases, risers, shoulders and rims in matte black lacquer, the outer surface with a thin layer of clear lacquer.
Together with hakogaki inscribed: 木彫印籠、表鳳凰圖、裏麒麟圖、根付め婦亀、左一山作揃。（木彫印籠、表鳳凰図、裏麒麟図、根付夫婦亀、左一山作揃 in modern kanji scripts). “Kibori Inro. Omote ho-o zu, ura kirin zu, netsuke meoto-game, Hidari Issan saku soroi” [Carved wood Inro, the front is a design of the Hoo, the reverse a design of Kirin, and the netsuke a design of wedded turtles, a set made by Hidari Issan]
The idea of “meoto 夫婦( a man and wife, a wedded couple)” has been very popular in Japan, such as Meoto-iwa, Meoto-Chawan, Meoto-game etc
The Hoo and the kirin are two of the shishin (4 Celestial Beings), representing the Southern and the Western quadrants respectively.