This one really is a mystery, so don't expect an answer. I can tell you what I know about it, (and what the dealer thought if you like) but what was its purpose?
It's a Netsuke, made out of bone/antler in the popular shape of a Hyotan (gourd). There are the remains of a lacquer coating and vine leaf designs on the surface. The question is, what is the hollow bowl, large enough to put a finger or thumb into, for? The blackish residue does not smell, and it does not look like burn marks. Came out of a Kura in Maizuru, north of Kyoto.
Well, Eric, you might just have hit the bull's eye, because this is what the dealer suggested. "But", he added, "Ohaguro tooth blackening was only done by women, and Netsuke were primarily worn by men."
"Ah, but no," I replied, "certain male members of the Kuge aristocracy and Buke classes were known to blacken their teeth also."
"In that case maybe this was maybe used by a Maro in the Gosho Imperial Palace in Kyoto", he said, his face brightening.
I showed this Netsuke to some J friends this afternoon and they laughed at the thought of a rather gay aristocrat prancing around with blackened teeth. One said, "No way; this must be some kind of tinder holder for lighting a fire or tapping out a kiseru". They agreed that it certainly was an interesting find, however.
Dave and Uwe are right, it is a kago ya, part of a set. I recently was able to take a close look at three sets, I will post some pictures soon. As you can see, a lot of work went into these diminutive arrows. The large ya is 37 inches long and the kago ya is 14.75 inches.
Thanks for the compression photo Eric. I've read about these arrows but never seen one before. Very dinky.
Dave, up to now I have only seen a few pictures and never up against a full sized one, you can see that they seem to have been made in the exact same way as the larger ya, I think these were for hunting small animals were you would not want to have a missed arrow travel to far or were a larger one would damage a very small bird etc, the kago yumi is not nearly as unwieldy as a large yumi, I will post some pictures.
First time here too. Dave was on the money with palanquin. I was aware of Kago-yari (everyone wants to own one)and Kago-zutsu (Kago guns) but Kago-ya are intriguing. When the retinue was attacked by a superior number the occupant of the Kago would have wanted some final mini weapons for protection.
In Japanese such ported vehicle boxes are usually called Kago/Okago (basket) or Norimono. Norimono means something to climb into/onto for riding, so you often find these words used together as in Norimono-kago, ie riding basket.
I can appreciate the use of many of the Kago weapons usable in close quarters, but a bow? I can think of a lot of weapons I would choose before that one. nevertheless buatifully crafted items. Thanks for the pictures Eric! I see that my eyes are tiering the bigger ya seems to have a willov leaf yanone not the kago.
Yes, I have seen similar but in this case Jan has the answer. This one is hard to see and badly rusted, but the pouring lip gives it away. The women would make musket balls before a battle, I was told. This ladle was given to me recently. I had been looking for one as they do come up occasionally, but for some reason this was my first so you can imagine my excitement.
I can def understand the excitement. I´ve been looking for a ladel for rather a long time now. So far I´ve come up with a big fat zero. Not even been able to locate a reproduction... Some of the ladels in my books are marked with kanjis on the handle. Even if it´s a tad rusty it´s still a nice find, Piers. If You grow tired of it, just scream my name!!