Vintage Japanese Lathe-Turned Wood Noodle Eater Spinning Top by Hiroi, Masaaki


Dimensions: 9-0”h x 5-1/2”dia.

Hiroi, Masaaki, (1935-2019) was the first Japanese creator of automaton figures which began in the 1960s, when these pieces were only for Japanese tourists but then these wonderful productions began to be looked at as “art" in 1970 Masaaki took when he introduced his works at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. The piece being offered was one of three pieces he introduced, The Boy and the Peach, The Noodle Eater and The Young Lord Riding a Boar.

The spinning top is fixed and wonderfully balanced, and used to operate the figure. Masaaki was quoted as saying, “The top represents our heart. If the axis spins smoothly, your life is on the right track”. This is why the “top” is the key to his automaton figures. No chopsticks are needed with this toy for when you spin the top on its head he begins slurping the simulated noodles from a bowl. The entire toy is painted in many colors, red, purpose and green. The figure has a fully expressive face with red cheeks and an open mouth that provides an opening for the noodles to disappear. From the back of the figure, he is showing a tuff of hair cascading down his back which has Buddhist implications related to innocence and purity. His hat, which is an inverted non-removable top, allows you to spin it which activates the consumption of the noodles from a black bowl. He is wearing a traditional haori made just for this child. His master who he learned his craft was Hiroi, Kenjiro. The piece is signed by the artist on the bottom of the toy. 

NOTE: The pigments used in this doll's creation are not colorfast, so colors may fade if brought into contact with water. The internal mechanisms are very delicate. The entire figure should be handled carefully at all times as it has been by the previous owner.

The ingeniously talented craftsman who creates this traditional spinning toy along with his creative approach to toy making can be found in our BLOG by going to:

Condition: Excellent meaning the piece is perfect, totally original, and complete and functions as intended. No cracks, no breaks, no missing pieces, and it retains its wonderful presence which suggests a degree of color variation that corresponds to its vintage. The artifact meets all the standards of the collectible Vintage Kokeshi toys and without question a unique treasure for the Japanophile.