Kokusai stag antler pipe case
A stag antler pipe case of musozutsu form, decorated with four deep bands with contrasting symbols and designs. The upper band shows deer and reishi fungus. Chinese legend believes that the deer is the only creature capable of finding the ‘fungus of longevity’. The second band appears to depict stylised feathers, while the third shows scattered bridges from a koto, with tight whorls representing water, evoking an image of the ‘water trade’ – the entertainment district. The fourth band shows water wheels tossed in a river’s flow, placed there to stop the wood from drying out and cracking. A fifth band is visible only when the case is pulled apart, revealing not one, but three signatures: the first is a full Kokusai within an elliptical reserve, the second a Koku that appears as a face on the side of a mokugyo-shaped reserve and the third a Koku in circular reserve set in a square cartouche. Next to these a fourth cartouche is inscribed 自適 (jiteki) – which here signifies “to suit oneself”. It alludes to a Japanese saying Yuyu Jiteki 悠々自適 which means a quiet, comfortable and content life, free from worldly cares, though in this case Kokusai discards this philosophical meaning.
The inscription possibly suggests a work completed in his later life.