Nagoya, circa 1830
A slumbering shojo, its head resting heavily in an upturned hand as it succumbs to the soporific influence of a surfeit of sake. Its long and delicately carved hair flows down over its body. It wears a woven outer robe over loose trousers carved with a rippling wave design, in reference to the shojo’s natural home by the seashore.
Signed in ukibori in a rectangular reserve: Tadatoshi.
In Japanese folklore shojo were renowned for their long orangey-red hair. They lived by the sea, passing their time drinking sake and sleeping off its effects. Old records tell of it being killed so its hair could be used to make a red dye. A creature of that hinterland between reality and fantasy, it is likely inspired by the red-haired orang-utans of Sumatra and Malaysia. The name is also a homophone for a young girl in Japanese, so although they are of indeterminate gender, in netsuke they often have a sweet and feminine allure.