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Chon's Reflections

Showcasing netsuke from our membership
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chonchon
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Chon's Reflections

Postby chonchon » Mon May 16, 2016 1:22 am

I wanted a thread where I could float some thoughts and ideas as I come across old and battered Netsuke which turn up in the Japanese market place. Follows on from the old Chon's Bits n Pieces I & II on the old site, partly at Martyn's request.

***** Readers are welcome to participate in any way they like, agreeing, disagreeing, adding or subtracting, but please do not use this thread to suddenly show off totally unrelated new purchases or to ask for translations. You can use the PM function, and/or there are perfectly good areas on this site where such actions are entirely appropriate. In fact this whole new Netsuke and Sagemono Lounge is your Oyster!

I know most of the dealers in this area of western Japan, and some are derisively called "Ubu-dashiya", loathed but also secretly admired by all. These opportunists travel the villages, spotting old storehouses within the walled gardens of farming houses, and offer a sum of money to knock down such unsightly structures and help "dispose" of the surely troublesome old and dusty contents. Later, 'fresh' objects pop up in the dealers' auctions if they are especially good, or in the general market place if they look unlikely to fetch top dollar. Among these will be the occasional Netsuke, and spotting those in a country market place on a Sunday will be me if I am lucky.

Such Netsuke will be generally utilitarian by nature, attesting to the fact that they were worn universally, by the rich/poor farmer, by the aristocrat, by the warrior, by the artisan and daily worker alike. In some Samurai dramas, the Netsuke and Inro set was held up high, literally as a physical symbol of the authority of the ruler, such as in the TV series "Mito Komon", and "Abarenbo Shogun". Many of these latter sets will have found their way into top Western collections.

What bits and pieces that I find here in Japan tend to round out the overall picture, it is true, but they also stimulate thoughts about the origins and the working ethos of Netsuke, and the thoughts of Japanese people today about these fascinating objects from their past.

Yesterday I drove 80 kilometers to a market, spending about 10 dollars on the expressway toll, 8 dollars for gasoline/petrol for the little hybrid, and 10 dollars for 'mou-ningu', an early morning special breakfast for my wife and me. Two hours later I had only two very basic old Netsuke to show for the outing, a tan, and a finer tone in my leg muscles. But I was happy.

Word of warning. There must have been 100 Netsuke dotted here and there throughout the market stalls, but 98 of them were NLO, Netsuke-like objects, many posing as old. One dealer, obviously drunk, even opened up to me a little more yesterday and told me half-boasting of an Iwami Netsuke faker who lives in the same village as he, over on the Japan Sea coast.
Last edited by chonchon on Mon May 16, 2016 5:59 am, edited 5 times in total.
Piers

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Bakurae
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Re: Chon's A musings

Postby Bakurae » Mon May 16, 2016 1:34 am

You'll be showing us the "two very basic old netsuke," won't you, Piers? Looking forward,

Alison

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chonchon
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Re: Chon's A musings

Postby chonchon » Mon May 16, 2016 1:48 am

Yes, Alison. 8-)

Although an argument can and always should be made for keeping historical artifacts 'as is', sometimes it surely has to be right to remove what is unnecessary and reveal what lies beneath, keeping a record of the 'before' and 'after', naturally.

This Netsuke is utilitarian, to be sure, but it does have something artistic about it. Carved in the shape of a flattened bamboo node section, it is relatively wide in the shallow bowl, and it was lacquered and delicately decorated at one time. The peg, I discovered, was crudely fashioned out of 'susu-dake' smoked bamboo, a hard but pretty material that I have previously enjoyed experimenting with.

Improvements. I managed to remove most of the stubborn burnt ash crud from the bowl, and rounded off the bottom of the ill-fitting and wobbly peg. The peg will unfortunately need replacing, a job which will take a few hours when the time is right.

Before, bowl.
R0012463.JPG


After, bowl.
R0012475.JPG


Back, before.
R0012465.JPG


Back, after.
R0012473.JPG
Piers

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chonchon
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Re: Chon's A musings

Postby chonchon » Mon May 16, 2016 2:15 am

The one above, the dealer said he did not want to take any money off me, but for the sake of balance he quoted a random, token sum. This reveals something about how much value he saw in it. In other words, he could not imagine anyone wanting to pay money for such an object! :shock:

This next one he placed a higher value upon. :o Wood, possibly once lacquered. To my eyes it does not even look like a Netsuke, but he assured it me it was for hanging objects from, and he used the word 'Netsuke', even though I had been careful not to utter the word and reveal anything about myself.

A not very symmetrical doughnut with vertical sides, and an elliptical central hole which is too big for any kind of knot. It would need some kind of physical structure, but there was no evidence of wear from such a bit. Nothing about this 'toggle' is machine-made, every facet being out of kilter in some way. Sliding a string around it revealed two slightly 'thinner' places where the string closed more satisfactorily, coinciding with the ends of the central egg-hole. This reminded me of bundles of ancient Chinese copper cash coins which have been collected on a string; they tend to wear away any central hole into an elliptical shape. That is one of the reasons that they eventually decided on a square hole in the center/centre, I guess, as any string would naturally tend to want to create 'corners'.

Could this be an example of an early ring Obimawashi Netsuke, not a large fine ring of ivory like we see in early woodblock prints, but a purely functional 'bridging' Netsuke heading towards Manju/Kagamibuta? A missing link, even?

No need to do any 'work' on this one:
R0012478.JPG


R0012479.JPG


R0012481.JPG


R0012482.JPG
Piers

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Bakurae
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Re: Chon's A musings

Postby Bakurae » Mon May 16, 2016 2:38 am

For simple, basic netsuke they certainly generate a lot of interesting ideas. The ash-encrusted one with the smoked bamboo peg is lovely after your treatment. I hope you'll keep the peg even if you have to replace it.

Alison

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chonchon
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Re: Chon's A musings

Postby chonchon » Mon May 16, 2016 2:46 am

Thank you, and yes, will do Alison. Heaven forbid that I should throw it away!

Having lived in Japan, and breathed the tradition here for over forty years, however, I think I have made enough of these pegs now to stay with the correct material, within the tradition. When the finished article is close to perfect it begins to become impersonal, to take its righful place as an unobtrusive servant. And here I have an old one to work with. Often they are lost. This one is Itto-bori. The artisan must have had a very hard and sharp knife to cut it like that, and he/she did not see fit to further shape it or smooth it off. (It could actually be a replacement! Pins/pegs for sword hilts and Tanegashima gun stocks for example were regularly lost and replaced.)
Piers

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AFNetsuke
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Re: Chon's A musings

Postby AFNetsuke » Mon May 16, 2016 4:32 am

Piers, I like this new 'bits & pieces' topic although your alternate name of 'Recollections' appeals to me. I find it incredible that you can still drive about and find these items. Stay on the trail and keep reporting your findings!
Alan

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chonchon
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Re: Chon's A musings

Postby chonchon » Mon May 16, 2016 5:31 am

Not 'Reflections'? 'Recollections' sounds more like looking back, on one's lifetime or childhood. ' A mixture of musings & amusement might be appropriate, I was thinking. I could go back and change it to 'Reflections' if the site will allow. Thank you for the kind consideration and encouraging comment.
Last edited by chonchon on Mon May 16, 2016 5:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
Piers

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Tsunuki
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Re: Chon's Reflections

Postby Tsunuki » Mon May 16, 2016 5:37 am

I really like the bowl. Though simple, the materials are quite lovely, and the lacquer shows that someone cared about it enough to add a personal touch.
Ryan Snooks

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jbjtennyo
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Re: Chon's Reflections

Postby jbjtennyo » Mon May 16, 2016 11:14 am

Hi Piers! Great idea for a subject! You find such unique and interesting things on your outings...I like both of the titles you have chosen, but I have to say I see the "Pun" inside the heading "Recollections (i.e. re-collections as in second time around re- collecting?) very clever!
You mentioned that there was ash inside the first bamboo piece you showed here--do you think it had been used as an ashtray netsuke? The very subtle design on the front of the piece--can you tell what it is? It looks like some kind of a leaf pattern to me, very simple and lovely. I can't imagine the seller had the attitude it wasn't of any value--I got the feeling he might have paid you to take it! Too bad. It holds some secrets to its whereabouts through time... Gosh! Wouldn't it be great if we could look at these pieces from the past and see some kind of hologram movie of their experiences?
Last edited by jbjtennyo on Mon May 16, 2016 12:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: posted twice
Judy


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