13 inches across, light wood
Carving wood plate of Kannon Bodhisattva (Bosatsu) done in the Nikkō-bori carving style.
The signature of the artist seems to be 白村 which can be read as ‘Hakuson’. However, the artist has a unique handwriting style, so it is difficult to confirm.
Each work has a handmade style and makes use of the warm, natural feeling of the tree. Nikko carving is a manly craft which requires an apprenticeship and yet despite that, the delicate care and attentiveness shown brings the finished product from a daily object into a dignified work of art. They were made in front of the gates of the Toshogu Shrine in Nikkō, Tochigi Prefecture.
Wood plate of Kannon Bodhisattva ' Japan
The origin of Nikko carving is not completely clear. However, from the 11th year of the Kan’ei era (1634) until the 13th year (1636), third generation shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu remodeled the main building of Nikko Tosho-gu into the magnificent and splendid building it is today. It is thought that the master craftsmen gathered from all around the country started Nikko carving as a hobby.
Nikko Tosho-gu was built in the 3rd year of the Genna era (1617) but due to the aforementioned Kan’ei era large-scale reconstruction work, the scale of the shrine was completely changed. The number of carpenters involved during this time totaled 1,680,000 with 400,000 of those as carving carpenters. After the reconstruction, several middle or small scale constructions and repairs occurred occasionally and it is thought that a large amount of workmen had a permanent residence at Nikko.
The most impressive characteristic of this woodwork is the use of a unique v-shaped gouge called a “hikkaki.” This is a special tool used by hand with a bent tip. During restoration of the Shinto shrine Nikko Tosho-gu, the triangular shape of the end made it ideal to be utilized as a tool to scrape off the difficult to remove varnish.
At the end of the Edo period, this tool began to be used in carving and was known by the names of “hikkaki” (scratcher), “hikkaki-tou” (scratching blade), and “nikko sankaku-tou” (Nikko triangular blade).
Using a single hikkaki and pulling the blade towards the carver across the wood to produce a hikkaki carving is Nikko carving’s most important feature.
[Tochigi Prefecture Designated Traditional Handicraft]