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Nio on Waraji

What subject or legend is depicted in your netsuke or sagemono?
clowman
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Nio on Waraji

Postby clowman » Thu Jun 15, 2017 11:59 am

I have seen a number of netsuke depicting the theme of nio sitting or standing on waraji, and seeming to mend or weave the cords of the sandals.

Does anyone happen to know the symbolic meaning?

While I know that waraji can symbolize travel, and could guess that the meaning of the pairing is good fortune in traveling, I wondered if there were any more specific (or totally different!) stories about nio and waraji?

Examples:

Image

http://museums.fivecolleges.edu/detail.php?museum=all&t=objects&type=all&f=&s=netsuke&record=273

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souldeep
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Re: Nio on Waraji

Postby souldeep » Thu Jun 15, 2017 1:01 pm

Hi Clowman,

It's a good question, and may well have deeper symbolism than I am about to share.

Nio are the spiritual protectors (sometimes referred to as Temple Guardians) of Buddhism. They receive straw sandals (waraji) from pilgrims and followers of the Buddhist faith.

This practice returns back to the Kobo Daishi when it is said he wore a real pair around his neck on his journey. Subsequently pilgrims would leave their old sandals at temples when they had worn through. It is suggested that the sandals are also left to represent spiritual adversities faced and surmounted.

As you note - Nio are often depicted fixing a part of the straw sandal. I'm not sure if anyone can provide a conclusive answer (although I'd love to hear one if possible) so here are a few guesses;

  • A symbolic reminder to a follower wearing the netsuke, that they should remember to donate a new pair of straw sandals on the next temple visit?
  • A reminder to the wearer that they need to take pilgrimage to the temple?
  • A reminder that a visit to the spiritual protector can help mend or resolve adversities?
  • A simple reference to a Nio's role. The straw sandal represents a Buddhist item of safety, the Nio fixing it (protector of the safety)

There are also netsuke of a single, or pair of, straw sandals. I suspect it was these that served as some sort of safe journey talisman.

Personally I find it's the thought process that tests the grey matter, that is one of the delightful parts of collecting netsuke :)
Piglet: "Pooh?" Pooh: "Yes, Piglet?" Piglet: "I've been thinking..." Pooh: "That's a very good habit to get into to, Piglet." - A.A. Milne.

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tanukisan
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Re: Nio on Waraji

Postby tanukisan » Thu Jun 15, 2017 8:57 pm

It could be the netsuke carvers being irreverent about Buddhist belief here - to quote Neil Davey -
'There is a disrespectful suggestion in a nio making a sandal as the making of footwear was the occupation of the yeta class of the lowest grade'.

John 


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souldeep
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Re: Nio on Waraji

Postby souldeep » Fri Jun 16, 2017 6:35 am

Hi John,

An interesting angle. Thanks for sharing.
Piglet: "Pooh?" Pooh: "Yes, Piglet?" Piglet: "I've been thinking..." Pooh: "That's a very good habit to get into to, Piglet." - A.A. Milne.

clowman
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Re: Nio on Waraji

Postby clowman » Fri Jun 16, 2017 6:56 am

Wow, thank you both for your observations and references! Very interesting meanings behind this symbolism.

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chonchon
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Re: Nio on Waraji

Postby chonchon » Fri Jun 16, 2017 7:16 am

NB No-one today says 'Yeta', a Victorian Romanization of Japanese. Edo was 'Yedo' back then, Ebisu (think beer) was Yebisu, Chokaro was 'Chokwaro' and Yottsuya Kaidan was Romanized as 'Kwaidan'.

One interesting hangover in English from those days is the Japanese Yen, pronounced 'En' by everyone in Japan today, as also they say Edo, Ebisu and Eta (Burakumin, = outcastes).

¥100 = 百円 'Hyaku-en'. (One hundred 'yen' to us.)
Piers

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souldeep
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Re: Nio on Waraji

Postby souldeep » Fri Jun 16, 2017 7:40 am

chonchon wrote:NB No-one today says 'Yeta', a Victorian Romanization of Japanese.

Hi Piers, what term is used for this class today?

Do you, or any of your esteemed Japanese colleagues, have any thoughts on what the symbolism of a Nio repairing a sandal might represent?
Piglet: "Pooh?" Pooh: "Yes, Piglet?" Piglet: "I've been thinking..." Pooh: "That's a very good habit to get into to, Piglet." - A.A. Milne.

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chonchon
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Re: Nio on Waraji

Postby chonchon » Fri Jun 16, 2017 8:02 am

No, but I'll have a look.

The Burakumin are sometimes referred to as ETA as I said above, but no-one will dare say it out aloud as it is exceptionally non-pc, and legally forbidden today in the Japanese media.
Piers

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