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During the Meiji Era (1868-1912), as Japan opened up to the rest of the world the nation’s artists began to lose the support of Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and the daimyo (landed) class.

This was observed by the Mitsui family who, having made a fortune as money lenders and merchants, were then the richest clan in Japan. As the country began to be swamped with Western art, the Mitsui family saw it as their duty to help preserve and support Japanese culture. They invested heavily in Kyoto-based artisans, and in the process acquired a vast collection of works, including a large number of Zochiko maki-e lacquerware works.

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