Thu, Nov 28, 2019

Reiwa’s very first bonbonniere

Commemorating the enthronement of the new Emperor

Round-shaped bonbonniere with the image of a phoenix carved in relief, which was bestowed on the occasion of commemorating the enthronement of the new Emperor
By Minako Nagasako / Curator, Gakushuin Univ. Museum of History

The Ceremony of Enthronement was held on Oct. 22, 2019, and followed by a Court Banquet, which was held in the evening. Since the enthronement ceremony at the beginning of the Heisei era (1989-2019), dishes served at court banquets have been limited to Japanese cuisine — as a matter of fact, items on the menu for this occasion and the last were exactly the same — but the wine served was that of Bordeaux, both red and white, retaining the tradition since the Meiji era (1868-1912). And the very first bonbonnieres of the Reiwa era were gifted to some 400 guests.

The bonbonniere bestowed to commemorate the enthronement of the new Emperor was made of pure silver and round-shaped, bearing the image of a phoenix, facing left and carved in relief on the lid. The golden chrysanthemum crest of the Imperial Household is placed at the side of the phoenix’s head, which makes the design rather unconventional. The phoenix pattern is also simple and highly likable. The phoenix, or ho-o, is an imaginary auspicious bird of ancient China and said to appear when a noble man of respectable character ascends the throne. The ho in ho-o is said to be the male, and o, the female.

The latest bonbonniere was manufactured by Miyamoto-Shoko Co., a silversmith established in 1880, which deals with various types of silverware. The company has produced bonbonnieres on a number of occasions, and we often find this familiar inscription at the bottom: “Pure silver, manufactured by Miyamoto.”

Miyamoto-Shoko also produced the bonbonniere on the occasion of the enthronement of the Emperor at the beginning of the Heisei era. The bonbonnieres presented to the guests on that occasion were also round-shaped, with the image of a phoenix. However, this phoenix is facing right, so when juxtaposed, the Heisei phoenix and the Reiwa phoenix are seen facing each other.

The bonbonniere commemorating the enthronement of the Emperor of the Heisei era (Courtesy of Gakushuin Univ. Museum of History), left, and the one celebrating the enthronement of the new Emperor compared

The bonbonnieres bestowed at the Court Banquet on Oct. 22, the one attended by the heads of state, were made of pure silver. However, the bonbonnieres conferred on guests at the following three Court Banquets are presumed to be silver-plated.

If you take a look at the list of invitation for tenders – issued on March 4 in the 31st year of the Heisei era (2019) – posted on the Imperial Household Agency website, you will find one regarding the production of 2,150 pieces of brass bonbonnieres, silver-plated and bearing the Imperial crest, to be delivered by Sept. 30 in the same year, or the first year of the Reiwa era. Unfortunately, the specifications, standards and such were not released. It only said: to be made “in accordance with the specifications from the agency.” The successful bidder was publicly announced on June 11. Miyamoto-Shoko won the contract at “12,243,800 yen.”

Which means, the bonbonniere costs 5,695 yen a piece. This includes putting the konpeito (confetti) inside and boxing the bonbonniere before delivery. Considering the effort on the part of the manufacturer and the added value, I don’t think I am the only one to say, this bonbonniere is well worth the price.

Minako NAGASAKO

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Curator of the Gakushuin Univ. Museum of History

Minako NAGASAKO

After graduating from Gakushuin University (Faculty of Letters, Department of History), Minako Nagasako’s field of study has been focused primarily on the modern history of the Imperial family and peerage, and of art and culture. She specializes in looking into the historical aspects of arts and craft. She has organized a number of exhibitions showcasing excellent artwork associated with the Imperial family. She is the author of several publications including “Bonbonieru to kindai koshitsu bunka” (Bonbonniere and the culture of the Imperial family in the modern period; published by Enishi Shobo, 2015.)

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