This beautiful Japanese ivory card case is a fine example of hiramki-e and takamaki-e decoration. The obverse depicts a ship laden with bales at sea, and the reverse, five Japanese cranes flying in a cloudy sky against the sun. It is signed on the base and was made towards the end of the 19th century.
In Japanese art, the crane is a symbol of longevity and is most closely associated with the New Year and marriage. The ship may represent the Ship of Good Fortune which is said to sail into port at New Year, carrying the Seven Gods of Good Luck, their treasures, and the crane and long-tailed tortoise, the latter of which is also a symbol of longevity.