Stag antler sashi netsuke - Kokusai
A slender, smooth bodied dragon wraps itself around the cap of a reishi fungus. The elongated snout coils in towards its gaping mouth, while its rear leg and tail curl to form an illusion of a mirror image and creating a mokugyo-like shape. The archaic rain dragon is totemic in Kokusai’s designs and appears repeatedly in his work. Paul Moss’s major study, Kokusai the Genius published in 2016, shows four reishi-shaped works that echo this particular design (nos. 316-319). The base of the stem is pierced with an i-no-me (boar’s eye), an inverted heart-shape, emblematic of unflinching courage.
The auspicious reishi fungus, symbolising long life, grows with a natuarally short stem, but under certain circumstances this can lengthen and is referred to as an ‘antler’ sashi. Kokusai, quite appropriately, exploits the natural shape of the antler to fashion a sashi netsuke that also serves as a sceptre. In this example he has created an extra expression of his characteristic wit, the design of the head also suggesting an hallucogenic face with vortex eyes.