Japan and its history through the cigarette case scenes A picture of refreshing breeze and quiet talk by Tsukada Shukyo
Unlike other articles in the "Behind The Scenes" section, the following describes a particular example of Tsukada Shukyo's work and is written from the first-person perspective.
I bought this stunning cigarette case in the middle of November 2022. While waiting for it to arrive, I wrote the mentioned above article on Shukyo's life, which is highly recommended for reading if you are not familiar with this highly-skilled artist.
As expected (Murphy's law), the package containing the cigarette case stuck at my country's customs. They sent me a message telling me that due to package contents description ("cigarette case") they need to open it to ensure it doesn't contain cigarettes, which are forbidden for personal import at my country. After sending them my approval (and import fees payment), I started to pray the seller didn't include any cigarettes inside the case as a "souvenir". Luckily, he didn't. A week after the package has been released and delivered to my door on January 1, 2023.

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Package contents
The package contained four items: two pieces of cloth, a cord and a wooden box.
Unfortunately, I don't know how all these were arranged when the package was shipped, as customs didn't bother to return the package contents to the original form, so all the parts were lying separately inside the box. I suppose the wooden box was wrapped in the green cloth and tied with the cord. Anyway, I was glad it at least arrived safely.
Contents of the wooden box:
red piece of cloth: 15 cm x 20 cm (6" x 8")
green piece of cloth: 132 cm x 38 cm (52" x 15")
cord: 157 cm (62")
wooden box: 128 mm x 95 mm x 40 mm (5" x 3 3/4" x 1 1/2"), 42 gr
cigarette case: 96 mm x 73 mm x 22 mm (3 3/4" x 2 7/8" x 7/8"), 128 gr
I don't have much to say about the cord, pieces of cloth and a cotton wool insert, so let's go directly to the wooden box.

Wooden box
The wooden box is of particular importance, because it bears an inscription on the inner part of the lid. A short technical reference on these accompanying boxes:
Tomobako is the name for the wooden boxes in which Japanese artworks are stored. They consist of a wooden body and a lid held together by a woven or braided ribbon.
The boxes are usually made of either two basic materials: one is cedar and the other is paulownia wood. Sometimes boxes are made of materials like chestnut (tochinoki), mulberry (kuwa), rosewood (shitan), ebony (kokutan) or ironwood (tagayasan).
The Paulownia tree is also known as the "princess tree". It was once customary to plant a Paulownia tree when a baby girl was born, and then to make it into a dresser as a wedding present when she married. While the Japanese do not consider this tree sacred, the wood is held in reverence by those who work with the tree, possibly due to the ability of the tree to regenerate from its own root. This, coupled with its resistance to rot and its freedom from warping and cracking, may account for this reverence.
To hold the box and the lid closely together a string is used, which is knotted above the lid in a slip knot (紐掛け, himokake). It was once round, but since the beginning of Edo Period (1603~1868) a flat cotton string (真田紐, sanada-himo) is most common.
By comparing the types of the wood, and taking into account that mine is extremely light, I came to the conclusion that the box I have is made from the Paulownia tree. The cord in my case is round, which nonetheless doesn't mean it is ancient, just uncommon.
I on purpose haven't called this accompanying wooden box tomobako up until now, as one should be careful here. These boxes are often inscribed (with brush and ink) with some information regarding their contents. Such information can include a description of the item, its maker, era, etc. The author of such an inscription often writes his name at the end. Usually, the author of the inscription is either the maker of the item himself, a maker's relative or representative of, or a non-related authentication expert. The wooden box is called tomobako (共箱) only if it is inscribed by the artist himself, but kandaibako (鑑題箱) or kiwamebako (極箱) if written by someone (mainly artist's relatives) other than the artist.

The inscription
The inscription appears on the inner side of the lid and is hand-written, which makes it difficult for reading even for native Japanese speakers. Consequently, I kindly asked the reddit community to assist me with the translation. The answer I got is:
A picture (図) of refreshing breeze (清風)
and quiet talk (閑話)
A cigarette case (巻莨入) made (製) from
shibuichi (朧銀) and K20 gold (二十金)
帝室技藝員 従七位 塚田秀鏡刻
Carved (刻) by Tsukada Shukyo (塚田秀鏡),
an Imperial Household Artist (帝室技藝員)
and Jushichii (従七位, one of the ranks in Japan)
鑑題 (kandai) may mean that it was written by
someone other than the author (e.g., the author's
disciple, bereaved family, other experts, etc.)
日(?)秀(?)操(?) - not sure, but it may be the
person or team name of 鑑題 (kandai)

As a result, three out of four columns were translated, providing information on the artwork's name, the name of the artist and materials used. However, the exact text in the last column was hard to identify even for a native Japanese speaker. It only says that the writer wasn't the artist himself. But who was it then?
Since it was impossible to identify the author relying on unclear kanjis, I decided to try another way. I looked up for works by Tsukada Shukyo that also had the accompanying boxes with them, hoping to find a match of the last columns in both. It wasn't an easy task to do. Shukyo's works are a rare find on their own, and find one with an inscribed wooden box seemed to be impossible.
But I was lucky. I came across this blog article, which described several items exhibited in the Kiyomizu Sannenzaka Museum and presented in a special lecture by Mr. Murata, the museum's director. Among the presented items were a pair of cuff links, made by Shukyo and accompanied by a wooden box:
The last column in both boxes looked very similar to me, but I wanted to be sure.
So, I double-checked my findings.
First, I asked the reddit community again, and they confirmed that both columns read the same: 同秀暎鑑題 (dou Shuei kandai). Here, the first kanji (同, dou) means "the same". It is a kanji widely used to save space while writing kanjis and refers to words written previously. Here it replaces the artist's surname, Tsukada (塚田), effectively making the last column to be "塚田秀暎鑑題" (Tsukada Shuei kandai), which means "boxed (written) [on behalf of the artist] by Tsukada Shuei (塚田秀暎)".
Second, I sent a message to Mr. Murata, the Kiyomizu Sannenzaka Museum's director. The reply I received from Mr. Murata is [sic]:

Mr. Georgiy Shoulga

Thank you for asking. I know this last column what says.
It says 同 秀暎 鑑題. 同 means "same". So, last name is Tsukada (塚田). 秀暎 is first name which Shukyo's son. 鑑題 means authenticated and named this item.

Tsukada Shuei (塚田秀暎) is also a metalworker, 1891-?. He made metalworks and
exhibited them at Teiten (帝展), Nitten (日展).

I hope my opinion to be your help.

Masayuki Murata

So, Mr. Murata not only confirmed the reddit community translation of the last column of the inscription, but he also was very kind to share with me the additional information. That is, the box is inscribed by Tsukada Shukyo's son, Tsukada Shuei (塚田秀暎), also a metalworker, who was born in 1891 and exhibited his works at Teiten (a series of 1919~1934 Imperial Academy of Arts exhibitions) and Nitten (a series of 1946~1958 Ministry of Culture exhibitions).
In 1929 Shuei published a short article "塚田秀鏡略傳" ("Short Biography of Shukyo Tsukada") in volume 3, issue 11, of the "帝国工藝" (Teikoku Kogei, "Imperial Crafts") magazine. The translation of this article is provided here. This article ends with the sentence "一二の追憶を記す" ("Written down / recorded from memories."), providing another evidence that Shuei and Shukyo Tsukada were closely related.

The cigarette case
Finally, we arrived to the cigarette case itself. The scene depicted on the case is inspired by the traditional Chinese paintings.
Tsukada Shukyo studied painting under Shibata Zeshin (柴田是真, 1807~1891), a famous Japanese lacquerer and painter. Shukyo was passionate about traditional paintings, especially those related to the Taoism and Buddhism. Many of his works were inspired by those paintings.
For example, this kozuka (小柄, a decorative knife handle) is carved with a recreation of the Muromachi period ink painting by Sesson Shukei (1504~1589), titled "Lu Dongbin, an immortal taoist" (in some sources, "Lu Dongbin, a Chinese hermit"). The composition and figure are a precise reproduction of the original painting by Sesson, except for the redness of the hermit's face, which is considered to be the idea of Shukyo.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find the ink painting which was the source of the scene shown on this cigarette case. The motif is similar to landscape paintings of Chinese painters Wang Meng (1308~1385), Shen Zhou (1427~1509) and Ma Yuan (1160~1225), and Japanese painter Yosa Buson (1716~1784). Perhaps, Shukyo was inspired by the fragment of the "Landscape of the Four Seasons" painting of the 16th century Japanese painter Kano Chokichi:
The right-hand side of the scene shows a hermit passing the bridge. A hermit or xian (仙) in Taoism refers to a person spiritually immortal, transcendent human, reclusive scholar, celestial being or similar entity having a long life. He carries a shakujō (or khakkhara), a staff topped with metal rings traditionally carried by Buddhist monks. The hermit is followed by the shūtóng ("page boy" or "book boy"), a boy serving in a scholar's study. Both figures are made of inlayed gold and silver. Rest of the scene, including the ground, bridge, mountains and a nearby pine tree (with inlayed gold pine cones), are carved in the metal.
The left-hand side shows two pine trees near a mountain hut or hermitage (庵), a secluded enclosure for intensive religious praxis, with three taoists having a conversation. Such huts are also referred to as "reed-thatched huts" (yaxan, 芽庵) and "grass-thatched shelters" (caoshe, 草舍).

The interior
The interior of the case is in a near-perfect condition with only minor signs of wear and a few microscratches. Two metal spring cigarette holders are present.
This type of spring holders and ring-shaped connectors are very unusual. A typical Japanese cigarette case used much larger rectangualar or ellipse-shaped connectors. Hovewer, it seems that the above type of holders and connectors was in use in items related to the Imperial House, as this imperial cigarette case from Tenshodo (est. 1879).

The edges
The cigarette case closes perfectly, with no gaps or any misalignment between the parts. There are no noticeable scratches or other defects on the golden rim.

The cigarette case is marked in three places. There are two stamped marks inside the case: one on the rim near the hinge and one on the clasp. The third mark is carved outside, just below the button.
The mark carved below the button is 秀鏡作 (Shūkyō-saku, "made by Shūkyō") with Shukyo's personal kao 眞 ("Shin"), inlaid with gold.
The mark stamped inside the case on the rim near the hinge is 二十金 ("20 karat gold").
Finally, there is a mark stamped on the clasp inside the case, which is 鈴仙 ("Suzusen"), which is the name of the company that produced this cigarette case before it was carved by Shukyo Tsukada. This is again based on a similarly shaped imperial cigarette case from Tenshodo, which is also stamped on the clasp, but with a "天賞堂" ("Tenshodo") mark.
More images of the cigarette case can be found here.