Japanese Wood Carving | Fish Okimono

Vintage Japanese Hand Carved Wood Koi Fish | Inami Zelkova Wood Okimono Carving

Age:Mid to Late 20th Century

Descriptive qualities& condition:

Dimensions: 16-0”l x 3-1/2”w x 5-0”h

This is a old, fine, three-dimensional Inami wood carving, (called Inane Chokoku in Japanese), of a Koi with realistic movement, scales, caudal, dorsal and pectoral fins. The piece has a wonderful hand and distinct tactile quality perceptible to the sense of touch, and possessing a fine, original dark patina, characteristic of Zelkova, (Keyaki), wood. This Koi is carved from one piece of wood which is the oldest wood used for carvings in Japan, and used because of its carving qualities in depicting the Koi’s symbolic prosperity, perseverance, and good fortune.

Powerfully rendered to showcase the natural qualities of the wood along with emphasizing the smooth touch, this stunning piece is a testament to the perfection that can be achieved by a pair human hands. The carp draws our attention to its details, particularly the loose ball in its mouth, which being unique, acts as a signature of the anonymous carver. This fully carved, lose round ball, is set in a slightly opened mouth, and is formally referred to as a "wish-granting jewel”, and treasured by the owner. This element is RARE to find in most Koi carvings, for most are merely suggested and not fully carved in the mouth of the Koi. 

The strong, stylized lines of the Koi's head have expressive lips, with eyes without eyelids, indicating the fish is believed to never sleep, which is a good ability to have if you are to be guarding a fire. The Koi's head is in contrast to the textured scales of the body and the simplistic ribs of the tail. This piece was not used as a counter balance to a “Jizai Kagi”, (crossbar for a hanging pot hook ensemble suspending cooking pots and kettles), but as a three-dimensional conversation piece to sit and be admired on the hearth, (Irori), in the main living rooms of Japanese homes. The Ironi's sole purpose beyond heating and cooking was to bring people together, and part of the charm is snuggling up by the fire with friends, family, or loved ones. When the  Mingei,  or Japanese Folk Craft movement began in the early 20th century, these everyday objects were treasured as objects of beauty. Today these antique and vintage works of art serve as wonderful decorative sculptures, and are favorites of collectors of period Japanese objects.

Vintage Condition: Excellent as originally made. “As is” with no affects from aging, and retains the original craft/workmanship. Any discoloration, chipping/cracking, surface wear, discoloration or structural damage is noted. 

NOTE: Experienced artisans use over two hundred different chisels and knives to carve in three-dimensions, removing the unwanted material, a technique known as “fukabori”, which amply demonstrates their superb craftsmanship.

And Finally, the qualities and characteristics of Koi have made it a popular Buddhist symbol. It is believed that humans must navigate the treacherous waters of suffering just as koi persistently fight their way against difficult currents. It is the mission of the Bodhisattva to remain focused on the goal of Enlightenment despite turbulent waters all around. The touchstone of Buddha Nature is always there, and Koi inspire humans in their ability to stay focused and succeed with grace and style. Koi embody a quiet beauty and mystery that’s both peaceful and intriguing. Koi have been called “living jewels” and “swimming flowers” for their physical beauty, with symbolic significance, especially in Asian cultures.