Albeit a single, this is a wonderful Seto porcelain Meiji period piece in the motif of a Japanese drum. The small sides are hand painted with flowers and what appears to be a lizard. The paintings on the large sides are of a family crest for the historical Samurai family name Asahina surrounded by legends and most likely made by a lover of the story or possibly even a family member hundreds of years later. It is called the 'mitsudomoe' design most often seen on a taiko drum- note the negative space in the center forms a triskelion. This one is also the a right-handed triple tomoe according to a blog in Japan I found. It was also used as the emblem for Samurai families, we found the story of one and have shared below. This wonderful Seto porcelain piece was most likely designed as something to hold incense sticks for the tea ceremony, or to light a candle in respect of the family. Today it can be used as a small taper candle holder or simply a great decorative item. All handmade and hand painted, down to the tacks of the drum and Japanese motif on the side. It is in excellent condition with no cracks or chips. There is some age discoloring from use on the inside, otherwise a perfect piece!
SIZE: 2 7/8" Tall by 2 1/2" Wide or 7.30 cm Tall by 6.35 cm Wide
A tomoe ’巴 or 鞆絵?, ともえ’ and tomowe ’ともゑ?‘ in its archaic form, is Japanese abstract shape described as a swirl that resembles a comma or the usual form of a magatama. The origin of tomoe is uncertain. Some think that it originally meant tomoe’鞆絵?‘, or drawings on tomo ’鞆?‘, a round arm protector used by an archer, whereas others see tomoe as stylized magatama. It is a common design element in Japanese family emblems ’家紋 kamon?‘ and corporate logos, particularly in triplicate whorls known as mitsudomoe ’三つ巴?‘. Some view the mitsudomoe as representative of the threefold division ‘Man, Earth, and Sky’ at the heart of the Shinto religion. Originally, it was associated with the Shinto war deity Hachiman, and through that was adopted by the samurai as their traditional symbol. One mitsudomoe variant, the Hidari Gomon, is the traditional symbol of the Ryūkyū Kingdom. The Koyasan Shingon sect of Buddhism uses the Hidari Gomon as a visual representation of the cycle of life.
The two-fold tomoe is almost identical in its design elements to the Chinese symbol known as a taijitu, while the three-fold tomoe is very similar to the Korean tricolored taegeuk. Also note that the negative space in between the swirls of a four-fold tomoe, forms the shape of a stylized swastika, which is fairly prominent in many Indian religions such as Hinduism and Jainism. On the opposite side of Eurasia, the Basque lauburu and some forms of the Celtic spiral triskele resemble small groups of tomoe.
The Story of a Samurai Motif
This motif was also used by the Asahina family date back to the 13th century, and this was a purchase from the UK, so how this ended up there and how old it really is probably lost in old history. His name (also written with the characters 朝夷奈 (Asaina)) comes from Awa no Kuni's Asaina-gun where he lived at one time. Though very likely a historical figure, Yoshihide appears in literature and in kabuki as a somewhat superhuman legendary character. According to these, his mother was the renowned female warrior Tomoe Gozen, and he had superhuman strength which he used to accomplish a number of stunning feats. The legends have it that Asahina's name is associated with some incredible feats. According to the Azuma Kagami, he and future shogun Minamoto no Yoriie, who were good friends, one day were together in Kotsubo. Yoriie said he had heard what a good swimmer Yoshihide was, and challenged him to give a demonstration of his prowess. Immediately, Asahina jumped into the sea and soon re-emerged with two or three sharks in his fists. Asahina is also mentioned in the Soga Monogatari as having competed for strength with Soga Goro Tokimune. Finally and most famously, he is said to have opened the Asaina Pass by himself in one night, thus giving this extremely important pass his name.
A retainer of Minamoto no Yoriie, Yoshihide fought alongside his father and Yoriie in a revolt against the Hōjō in 1213. It was he who raided and burned the Ōkura Bakufu, seat of Minamoto no Yoritomo's government. Defeated, according to the Azuma Kagami the 38-year-old Yoshihide fled to Awa no Kuni with 500 horsemen. From this moment, his whereabouts are unknown but, according to the Wada family records (Wada Keizu), he fled first to Awa no Kuni, and then to Korea
Above History from Wiki resources Kusumoto (2002:170) and Kamakura Shōkō Kaigijo (2008:55)
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