Category Archives: folklore

Nautical netsuke?

I was just having a look at some netsuke (Items which were designed as toggles on the robes of japanese monks, often carvings of animals or people) on google images earlier today and I noticed this great octopus carving – I don’t think I’ve ever come across sea creature carvings before. So I’ve been having a search to find more!

I first came across Netsuke when I was looking round the Victorian and Albert Museum as part of a school GCSE art trip and instantly fell in love with them. I would quite like to own some one day but they can be fairly pricey items so that wont be very soon unfortunately… usually they’re carved in ivory or bone, but sometimes wood and amber are used.

This amazing cuttlefish was actually made this year by Russian artist Sergey Osipov – I really like his work as it’s so detailed and he uses metal and amber inserts for detail

This one is pretty strange –  it has been described on the website I found it on as:

“A stag antler netsuke of two mythical sea creatures and an octopus
19th Century
the creatures of human form, one creature held aloft in the octopus tentacles, incised signature — 1½in. (3.9cm.) high, (one foot with losses to toes).”

I think this may be a representation of Ningyo,  – 人魚, or “human fish” which I mentioned a few posts ago when writing about japanese Yokai. I think they were traditionally quite ugly-looking, and I remember Ningyo being described as something along the lines of ‘cross between a carp and a monkey’ which is certainly what this looks like.  I wish I had £600 to spend on netsuke… this is what this is estimated to sell for.

 I like this one but I cant find much info on it apart from that it’s currently in Kyoto

This piece features rather an angry upside down sea beam in the backpack of an old fisherman.

The last couple of images I’m posting are those I’ve found on the International Netuske Society website just because I think they’re great and hopefully will give you some idea why I like netsuke so much!

Really nice Kirin to finish!

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Clearly Tanuki is the winner –


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Umbrella Ghost

About a year or so ago I came back from South East Asia and blogged a little about about Yokai; demons from Japanese folklore. I’d seen some descriptions of them in the Kyoto Manga Museum and had taken a liking to them.

The other day I was looking through my boyfriend’s film collection and spotted something called ‘Yokai War’ which we ended up watching . It has reminded me how much I love Japanese monsters and got me thinking I probably want to make some textile or plush Yokai my self… or possibly construct them from paper clay and fabric…

Here’s some of my favourites:

Obviously I love Kappa as it’s one of the most famous and annoying of the Yokai. Kappa lives in water is generally horrible but quite likes cucumbers.

Kitsune are foxes who can shape shift into humans and grow multiple tails. Once they are at the age of 1000 they gain their ninth tail, silver fur, and become gods.

Ningyo are Japanese mermaids. They aren’t very similar to their western counterparts – in fact they’re horribly grotesque and look more like a monkey crossed with a carp.

Kasa-Obake has to be one of the strangest – it is an Umbrella Ghost that has come alive after 100 years of being neglected. Think about it next time you end up loosing an unbrella…

This would be a pretty good Halloween costume… if I have time I’ll do it!!

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