Ittabori Carvings

Japanese Antique Ainu Kibori Kuma Ittabori Carved Figures | Pair

$225.00

Age:1920s

Descriptive qualities& condition:

Dimensions:  Male- 7-1/2”h x 3-0”w x 2-1/4”d; Female- 7-1/2”h x 3-0”w x 2-1/2”d

The Ainu people arrived in Japan and immediately were surrounded by prejudice, survived through adaptation, resilience, and the sheer stubbornness of human will, and are equated to the Native Americans. These wood and enameled hand carvings from Hokkaido and similar to what is referred to as Ittabori, (one blade carved), and are very expressive and beautifully executed in ichii (Japanese yew). They are characteristically adorned in traditional clothing than typically worn by Japanese citizens. The most famous item, as you see depicted in these two figures is a coat-like garment called the "attus", and made from the bast fibers of a Japanese elm tree that is native to Hokkaido. All such garments focus attention on the representation of the stylistic decoration on the back and around the sleeves with graphic designs in navy and black applique and have deep, rich colors. Embroidery incorporated into the jackets is meant to ward off evil spirits. (The traditional garments of the Ainu were made of materials such as animal hides, fish skins, or cloth woven from the fibers of tree bark or grass stalks. When cotton became available through trade, the Ainu began to decorate clothes with cotton cloth strips or thread, and produce clothes primarily made of cotton. These traditional clothes are no longer worn in contemporary daily life. However, it is becoming more common to see traditional Ainu clothing at ceremonies and during song or dance presentations at events).

This rural craft carving of the Ainu Couple is referred to as Kibori Kuma and pictures a little bear in the wife's arms which represents their anchor to the past and their guide to the future. The fishing pole and the chum salmon held by Kato represent a good harvest. The couple is considered stalwart companions, representing the immutable spirit of an epic journey to carry on life. Old hand-carvings such as these are extremely rare, although still reproduced today using modern methods of carving and materials. 

Antique Condition: Exceptional. “As is”, and retains the original craft/workmanship. Any discoloration, chipping/cracking, surface wear, or structural damage was noted. Each is finished in a melted white wax is applied and polished with a dry cloth. The wax prevents the wood from cracking or getting dirty and effectively draws out the oiliness of the wood. These museum-quality figures are exceptionally rare, and only a few such figures are exhibited at the Hokkaido Museum in Japan and sought after by collectors of this form of folk craft. 

HISTORIAL NOTE:

The Ainu are an indigenous people of Japan. “Ainu” means “human being” in the Ainu language. When the Meiji government brought Hokkaido into Japan’s domain, settlement and development had a drastic impact upon the Ainu ways of life and culture. In 2008, 140 years after the island's annexation and 109 years after they had their nationality taken away from them, Japan officially recognized the Ainu as an indigenous people. The Hokkaido Former Aborigines Protection Act of 1899 declared the Ainu to be Japanese people — banning the Ainu from speaking their language, practicing their religion, and partaking in Ainu cultural activities. The Ainu traditionally practiced animism, (the belief that all-natural phenomena, including human beings, animals, and plants, but also rocks, lakes, mountains, weather, and so on, share one vital quality—the soul or spirit that energizes them—is at the core of most Arctic belief systems), and had no written language. The Ainu traditionally practiced animism and had no written language. Facing these challenges, the Ainu have persevered, carrying on their cultural heritage to this day. Official figures suggest that there are 24,000 Ainu living in Japan today, many of mixed ancestry, many more in denial of their roots for fear of discrimination.

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Customer Reviews

One of the most beautiful pieces I have purchased in over 10 years

I recently purchased one of the most beautiful pieces I have purchased in over 10 years. The information you provided was excellent, the piece is in mint condition as advertised, with a subject matter I did not have in my collection.

— dbl

Delightful and well written book

Just downloaded my ebook on Sosaku Kokeshi. Excellent and so excited to see that you transposed the hardbound version. Exceptional large color images with great descriptions and details. It is so nice to have a copy I can carry when touring and when I am on-line shopping for Kokeshi. Also nice not to have to pay for international shipping.

— Author's name

A great doll

As always, a carefully packed order arrived this morning. This Sosaku Kokeshi – Takeda, Nori Aki Kaze is a great doll. Her large attractive head and maple leaf pattern, along with the vibrant colour make this doll very intriguing. Another copy of your new book that I have ordered for my friend will be a great Christmas Present for him. Much appreciated. I have also enjoyed furthering my knowledge of Japanese Antiques and Collectibles through your website.

— Kathy

You did the subject justice

Vintage Kokeshi and its history is absolutely a topic thats close to my heart, so Im pleased that you wrote about it. Im also happy that you did the subject justice bringing the history of these creative artifacts to light. Not only do you know a great deal about it, you know the way to present the subject in a way that individuals will wish to read far more. Im so happy to know a person/site like you exists on the internet. I understand you are writing a book on Sosaku Kokeshi artists. That will be high on my list for there is nothing in English on the subject, and I am worried that the craftsmen and their creations will be lost as Japan becomes more western in attitude. Doomo arigato gozaimasu from Japan.

— Misugi

Truly opened my eyes

I recently purchased your book on Kokeshi and what a find after collecting for over 10 years with no information to base my purchases on. Now I have YOUR ILLUSTRATIVE BOOK and it has truly opened my eyes. All the associated stories and folk tales give such light to my collection. A curator at the Japanese American National Museum in LA told me about this great resource. Your book happens to be astonishingly precise although I can understand why someone else has not written a book on the subject, because all the artists producing Kokeshi remain obscure and little information available has not been translated. Your book truly did switch the light on for me personally as related to Japanese folk art.

— John G

Detailed textual information & beautiful photographs

We just received your new book, Sosaku Kokeshi: A New Look at an Old Tradition. Let us be the first to congratulate you on this superb follow-up to Kokeshi: Wooden Treasures of Japan. Your comprehensive text with its notes on the artists and the beautiful photography create a work that any collector of Kokeshi should have if they wish to develop an understanding of and knowledge about this Japanese folk art. We don’t know which is better (Does either have to be better?), the detailed textual information or the beautiful photographs. Both insist upon and rightfully demand spending time to enjoy and appreciate them. Thank you so much for adding to our appreciation of Kokeshi.

— Masakazu & Keiko Ota

Another great Kokeshi book edition

Another great Kokeshi book edition. I was thrilled to see many of the Kokeshi in my collection in your book. I even found a few that I still had not been able to identify, it was nice to finally know the artisans behind my wonderful collection.

— M. Molina

My kokeshi collection has become more focused and personal now that I am able to recognize which dolls I am truly drawn to

Whether you are a kokeshi doll collector like I am, or exploring Japanese folk art for the first time, Sosaku Kokeshi – A New Look at an Old Tradition is a wonderful, informative resource for collectors and a lovely visual introduction to Sosaku dolls. I just purchased a copy of the book, and I could not be more pleased! With its beautiful colour photographs, signatures and profiles of the artists along with titles of the dolls, it is a well-researched, comprehensive resource. While some dolls featured in the book were familiar to me, I was also introduced to artists and dolls that I have never seen or heard of before.

These two books have helped me to learn so much more about kokeshi dolls, and influence my thoughts on the process of doll selection. My kokeshi collection has become more focused and personal now that I am able to recognize which dolls I am truly drawn to. These two books have become an extension of and just as much a part of my collection as the dolls that sit on my shelves.

— Karen W.

WONDERFUL exposition.

The artwork on each doll is literally like a unique painting historically recording the Japanese culture. Thank you for your fine work and this educational experience.

— TM

After we purchased the first one, we fell irresistibly in love

We started collecting Kokeshi only a short time ago with the expert guidance of Michael and Robert. Beginning with a goal of three or four dolls for each of our granddaughters, we almost immediately changed our goal after we purchased the first one and fell irresistibly in love with this Japanese folk art.

We have amassed a small collection that we display proudly.

In spite of our limited background and only a little research to support our evaluation, Sosaku Kokeshi: A New Look at an Old Tradition is a magnificent work on the subject of these wooden dolls which make up a segment of the folk arts of Japan. The detailed background materials on the artists and the notes on the dolls can be an invaluable part of one’s collection. The marvelous photography is an excellent complement to the text, as we re-viewed the images many times, envying the owner of each doll.

— Koigirl

I love my new jewelry box!!

Just want to say MAHALO — love my new jewelry box!! I wanted this tobacco box to hold my modest collection of jewelry. I tend to march to the beat of a different drummer most of the time, and I often repurpose items. When I saw this lovely Japanese box you were selling, I thought “bingo!” — perfect!! So, many thanks… and I hope to occasionally purchase an item now and then now that I know about you!

— Kristi

Delightful Kokeshi book

I received your delightful Kokeshi book, and I am very grateful to have discovered this beautiful publication. The photographs are singular elegant portraits. It is wonderful you have included the calligraphy kanji signature of the craftsman, as important as the beautiful painted dolls. Your book gives provenance to my small treasured collection and a guide in my search for more. Exciting to also discover a few of mine already in your book. Many thanks again for gifting this special kokeshi edition and I hope to continue to share the joy.

— Tania

Oh my goodness! She has arrived and she is divine!

She was beautifully packed and arrived safe and sound. She is so gorgeous and I thank you so much for all that you have done along the way. You provide such a professional yet also personable business and it was a delight dealing with you.
Thank you for bringing such gorgeous items to our attention – these Kokeshis are ‘works of art’ and we are lucky to be able to purchase them and bring them into our lives and homes.
I had to send you a photo of her with her new family and I have to say, as you predicted, she fits in beautifully.
I shall keep an eye on your website for further ‘treasures’.

— Karen, the lucky owner of ‘Pigtails’ by Ishihara, Hideo

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— Brenda

Really beautiful.

Got the vase over the weekend. Somehow this medium really speaks to me, at least the objects where most everything is in different shades of brown. Very appealing. Yes, too bad I missed out on the ginger jars you had for sale. Ah well, it’s all OK in the universe. And what clever use of materials for safe packing!

— Da-Shih

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I could not be happier with my three new Kokeshi

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Opened my eyes to the diversity and beauty of an amazing art form

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Great spinning top

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Thank you for sending this book to me

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