Sanraku – lunar hare pounding rice

A lunar hare stands on a billowing cushion of clouds on its hind legs beside a large wooden mortar, clasping a pestle in its left paw as it prepares to pound rice for mocha.

The legend of Tsuki no Usagi is an enduring one in Japan and has its origins in Buddhism. The man in the moon comes down to earth disguised as a beggar and begs a fox, a monkey and a hare for food. The fox catches a fish in a stream, the monkey plucks fruit from a tree, but the hare has nothing to give. He therefore asks the fox and the monkey to help him build a fire, finally throwing himself on it to offer his own body as sustenance. The beggar quickly transforms back to his true form and rescues the hapless creature from the flames and takes him back to the moon to live as his companion.

The eyes are inlaid in pale horn.

Sanraku netsuke lunar hare pounding rice - Rosemary Bandini
Sanraku netsuke lunar hare pounding rice - Rosemary Bandini
Sanraku netsuke lunar hare pounding rice - Rosemary Bandini

Circa 1870

Signed in a leaf-shaped reserve: Sanraku

Height: 3.5cm, width: 3.7cm

Provenance: An old English collection

Sanraku