netsuke

Square netsuke made of carved horn, representing Benkei carved in relief. On the top of the netsuke Benkei is trying to hit his master with his fan. The netsuke has a border with a cloud pattern. At the four corners are two iron dots on both sides. Part of the fan is broken. On the underside, in the right lower corner is a bridge. Over the sea the sun is rising.

Benkei is a very famous monk who was a faithful follower of Yoshitsune, the hero of the war of Genpei (the war between two large samurai families Genji and Heishi from the end of the 11th to 12th centuries). After the war, Benkei was hated by his elder brother Yoritomo and his master. Yoritomo ordered him to be seized and killed. He tried to escape to the area he came from with his followers. In order to pass through one checkpoint they disguised themselves as a group of Yamabushi (monks who lived in the mountains to lead ascetic lives). However, a gatekeeper found Yoshitsune and, suspecting him, began to question him. Suddenly Benkei told Yoshitune he had the face of a criminal and hit his adored master to throw the gatekeeper off the scent. The ruse was successful and his imagination had saved his master. The story about Benkei's dilemma in having to hit his master in order to save him is very popular in Japan, and is often performed in Noh and Kabuki theatre.

Collection Information

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