Japanese Wood Ichii Itto-bori Carving

Japanese Vintage Ichii Itto-bori Hand Carved Wood Dragon (tatsu) Figures



Descriptive qualities& condition:

Dimensions: 3-0"h x 2-0"l; 2-1/2"h x 3-1/2"l

Shown are two yew wood Itto-bori Dragon (tastu) carvings. These pieces were most likely made to commemorate the Year of the Dragon when it was purchased. The dragons have very expressive black eyes, a red tongue, and wonderful turquoise coloring to accentuate each piece along with one having an expressive curly tail The second carving looks as if it is about to fly or is flying. 

The wood has a red-toned heartwood in the center and white-toned sapwood on the outer rings. This coloration gives the woodcarving pieces their individuality. Over time, the color of the wood changes, and a sheen develops which is another appeal of this craft. In that they are quite unusual and show a nice variation of the subject they are sold as a pair and made by Ise Jingu whose mark is on the bottom with the name of each dragon.

Vintage Condition: Excellent sense of proportion, “as is” original craft/workmanship. Any discoloration, chipping/cracking, surface wear, or structural damage noted. 

NOTE: Itto-bori literally means “one chisel cut”, and if you look closely at the pieces you will notice the angles made by the chisel along the dragon’s body. Ichii woodcarvings (called Ichii itto-bori in Japanese) are produced in the Hida region of Gifu prefecture and made only from the wood of ichii (Japanese yew), the prefectural tree of Gifu. The ichii tree gets its name from a scepter made of Japanese yew wood that was presented around eight hundred years ago to the emperor for his coronation. The beauty and high quality of the scepter earned the title sho ichii (the highest rank) and led to the tree being called ichii.

This craft is notable for the use of wood from Hida that is between four hundred to five hundred years old, being carved with only chisels, and not being colored in order to bring out the natural beauty of the wood grain. 

People born in 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, and 2024 are said to have the personality of the Dragon. The Dragon is the fifth of all zodiac animals. According to one myth, the Jade Emperor said the order would be decided by the order in which they arrived at his party. Everyone expected the powerful Dragon to arrive early on. However, he came after Rat, Ox, Tiger, and Rabbit. When asked why he was so late, Dragon said that on the way, he saw a village suffering from drought. He had to stop and create rain for them. The Jade Emperor was happy when he heard of this noble deed and gave him the fifth position.