Initially, foxes were the messengers (tsukai) of the goddess Inari, but now the difference between them is so blurred that Inari herself is sometimes depicted as a fox. Initially, foxes were the messengers (tsukai) of the goddess Inari, but now the difference between them is so blurred that Inari herself is sometimes depicted as a fox. In Japanese folklore, foxes have great knowledge, long life, and magical powers. Chief among them is the ability to take the form of a human being; the fox, according to legend, learns to do this after reaching a certain age. Kitsune usually take the form of a seductive beauty, a pretty young girl, but sometimes turn into men. This fox mask will come in handy to transform into a fox. The mask is carved from mammoth bean, Japanese Urushi lacquer, silver Nashiji glitters, black Urushi, cord. 2023 Available for purchase.
In the collection of kaidan "Otogi-boko" ("Puppets", 1666) Asai Ryoi has a story "The story of the fox that absorbed the energy of the daimyō". It describes in detail the process of the transformation of a fox into a man: "Walking along the banks of the Shinohara River in the dim light of a foggy autumn evening, he saw a fox praying frantically, turning north, standing on its hind legs, with a human skull on its head. Every time the fox bowed in prayer, the skull fell from her head. However, the fox put it back and continued to pray, facing north, as before. The skull rolled down many times, but in the end it was firmly fixed on the head. The fox read the prayer about a hundred times" . After that, the fox turned into a young girl. Mammoth tusk, height 5.8 cm, Urushi black matte, red. Toning - Yashabushi - dye from alder cones. Fox eye inlay: red mother-of-pearl snail shell, amber. Girl's eyes inlay: white mother-of-pearl, amber. Braided cord. August, 2022. Russia, a private collection.
"Kiyohime" has been carved from mammoth tusk, its length is 7 cm.Her eyes are double inlayed with golden mother-of-pearl and black buffalo horn. Her hair and make-up were colored with different Urushi lacquers. "Kiyohime" was exhibited in "Contemporary netsuke in private Russian collections" in the Oriental Museum in November 2017. My mask Kiyohime is a collective image, taken from theaters Kabuki and Noh, printed pictures and my imagination… Kiyo hime is one of the most famous antagonists in Japanese literature, and an example of a honnari hannya—a demon woman who has attained the maximum level of power. She appears in The Legend of Anchin and Kiyo hime, or Princess Kiyo, an ancient tale from Wakayama prefecture. Versions of the story appear in a number of ancient books. Her tale is retold in the famous noh play Dōjō-ji. One day, a handsome visiting priest named Anchin fell in love with the beautiful Kiyohime, but after a time he overcame his passions and refrained from further meetings. Kiyohime became furious at the sudden change of heart and pursued him in rage. The priest and Kiyohime met at the edge of the Hidaka river, where the priest asked a boatman to help him to cross the river, but told him not to let her cross with his boat. When Kiyohime saw that Anchin was escaping her, she jumped into the river and started to swim after him. While swimming in the torrent of the Hidaka river, she transformed into a large serpent or dragon because of her rage. When Anchin saw her coming after him in her monstrous new form, he ran into the temple called Dōjō-ji. He asked the priests of Dōjōji for help and they hid him under the bell of temple. However, the serpent smelled him hiding inside the bell and started to coil around it. She banged the bell loudly several times with her tail, then gave a great belch of fire that melted the bell. The fire was so great and large that it not only melted the bell, it also killed the priest as well. 2017. China, private collection.
In Japan, there are many miracles, myths, dragons, werewolves, legends... Female ninjas are a very mysterious phenomenon, there are many rumors, admiration, they were adored and avoided. Often Kunoichi tried on the image of a geisha or a servant girl. Possessing feline flexibility and agility, the ability to climb a wall with iron claws and the ability to obtain secret information. The more I read about Kunoichi, the more this image merged with the image of a cat. Cats in Japan are covered with many legends and names. From cute pets to bloodthirsty demons: Nekomata (猫又/猫股), Kasha (火車/化車), Gotoku-neko (五徳猫) and Kaibyo (怪猫). In the Kabuki theater, they put on plays about cats, they can be combined under the name "Cat Trouble". In The Illustrated Book of a Hundred Demons (Hyakkai Zukan, 百怪図巻, 1737) by Sawaki Sushi, there is a picture of a nekomata that takes the form of a girl playing the shamisen. It is Kaibyo (怪猫) that I will focus on, this is the spirit of a cat that drank the blood of its owner during its lifetime, who was unjustly killed or committed suicide. This spirit can take on the human form of the one whose blood it drinks. He takes revenge on the offenders, bringing confusion and controls their will. Kunoichi often risked her life, which is why I united in one idea with Kaibyo. Cats often took on the form of elegant graceful women, geisha were the epitome of feline beauty, let's not forget about samisen (it was made using cat skin). 2023. Belgium, the private collection.
This mask netsuke Kurohige has been carved from mammoth tusk, Japanese Urushi lacquers, silver Marufun, double inlaied eyes (mother-of-pearl and black water buffalo horn), its length is 5.9 cm, its width is 4.1 cm. 2021. Belgium, private collection.