For about thirty years, this little ashtray, (10 cm across) has sat atop one of my stereo speakers and served to hold my guitar picks & capo, a few odd screws and some old steel phonograph needles.
It occurred to me that in this day of the internet, I should see if I can find out anything about it.
The underside is marked "MARUHON WARE" in a semicircle, above a capital "K" inside a circle, both above "MADE IN JAPAN", underneath all are five or six Japanese characters.
This is a very similar one I found at an Australian antiques site. It is captioned:
1910s - 1920s Maruhon ware ashtray ($22)
Made in Japan. Hand painted.
The underside looks quite different though, the writing is coarser and more irregular, there is a patent number, and no Japanese characters. The "W" formed of crossed "V"s is no help as the "W" on mine is too faint to tell if it is the same.
I even found a picture of an identical ashtray with no info, unfortunately. It is just listed as:
VINTAGE MARUHON WARE, HAND PAINTED FLORAL CERAMIC ASHTRAY JAPAN TOBACCIANA 4"
for US $5.95
It does have marks that as far as I can tell are the same as mine, even the Japanese characters. The writing on mine is finer, but fainter.
An extensive search has not produced any details about the Marutomo at this stage. We know that the Japanese word “Maru” translates to mark or circle. We also know that similar wares appear with the names “Marumon Ware” and “Maruhun Ware”, only these brands appear with the circled letter “K”. A lot of Marutomoware is advertised as 1920-1930.
Marked on the base, Marumon Ware, the letter K in a circle, Made in Japan and Japanese writing underneath that. The Japanese were required to mark their exports Made in Japan , a practice which continued until the beginning of World War II, from 1941 until 1945. During the following years of American occupation of Japan (1945 to 1952), all exports from Japan were marked Made in Occupied Japan. After the Occupation, Japan marked her exports simply Japan.
It is believed that Marumon Ware was produced by a Division of the Noppon Toki Gomei Kaisha Company in the small town of Noritake. (See Noritake above)"
Further Google text search reveals little else concrete, and a lot of sites quoting or referring to the one above.
My ashtray is Japanese, pre-WW2, thus at least 74 years old, could be up to 100.