Bamboo netsuke - Unsigned
A tubular bamboo netsuke with a medallion design of a stylised seahorse, inscribed 松焼啜茗, 壬午正易作、飯島君正十品 (burn pine and drink tea, an oracle object with sea-horse, one of ten items belonging to Iijima Kunsho).
This item was likely intended for use during the Sencha tea ceremony, as part of the Yin-yang Five Elements oracle practice. The Sea Horse holds a powerful place in Japanese belief systems, the name tatsu no otoshige literally meaning ‘child of the dragon’. It is an auspicious talisman for a good harvest, good luck, marital harmony, smooth birth and fertility. Its reproductive system is unique in that it is the male that gives birth, a fact that may cause a wry smile amongst some readers.
I am grateful to Mieko Gray for enlightening me on this subject.