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Torrez

Is it even Japanese?

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Sorry, not sword-related, but on a manju netsuke and a part of a smoking set. I have been strugling with this signature for quite some time now and hoped someone might be kind to help. It looks rather complicated for a chinese fake and with reasonably decent calligraphy and even with a kakihan, but I can't crack even one of the kanji no matter what references I use. Is it legible at all? Many thanks!

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Torrez

 

I can't help with the Kanji, but I think the iconography is definitely Japanese. Nice smoking set.

Rich

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Dear Torrez,

 

Agree with Rich - definitely Japanese.  Probably from a group of manju carvers whose names follow the Sho - ___ - sai form (so just look for carvers with three kanji names and the first is Sho and the last is Sai).

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荘柳齊 Sōryūsai 

 

The 柳 (ryū) used on the item is a variant, so it looks slightly different from the one used here on this post. 

 

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I find this quite useful if you can recognise at least one kanji you can cross reference. Takes time but you will learn from it and start to associate the shapes to the sounds eventually. 

Many sword fittings artists crossed into Inro, lacquer work of all sorts, netsuke and Okimono etc. You will see Yokoya somin in the list etc.. Known for sword fittings primarily but also did nestuke. 

 

http://carvers.netsuke.org.ru/search.php?w=all

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The theme is Empress Jingu and her minister Takenouchi no Sukune who is holding her son (who later became Emperor Ojin)   

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Thank you, everybody who took time and effort to help! 

 

We have also identified the subject as Takenouchi in a netsuke group, Kyle, but couldn't find anything explaining him holding her son. Did he raise Ojin, did he save him from something/somebody? Do you know?

 

The signature is also not listed in either of the netsuke reference bibles - MCI, Lazarnik, Davey. It looks like we have identified one other pretty good carver...

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I once owned a set of fuchigashira with the very same theme and thought about that question too. Although I never found a concrete explanation, I assumed the theme was symbolic. As you probably know, Empress Jingū is said to have given birth to Ōjin after Emperor Chūai had already passed away (in the literature it is said to be three years, but it probably three seasons, which would equate to nine months - the average term of pregnancy). During this time, Minister Takenouchi played a pivotal role as Empress Jingū's advisor. As the closest male influence upon the young Ōjin, he may have even fulfilled the role of a father figure, which might explain why he is nursing the infant Ōjin. Moreover, Takenouchi also acted as an adviser to Ōjin, when Ōjin succeeded his mother to became emperor. In light of this, Minister Takenouchi could be said to have figuratively raised Ōjin from a child to an emperor. 
 

This, however, is mere speculation on my part, and if you have the time you might want to look at the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki, which are the primary sources for the lives of Empress Jingū and Emperor Ōjin. Perhaps something more literal is contained there.

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