A fine, early 19th Century Osaka school recumbent deer, legs drawn in for compactness and head turned back, eyes inlaid with dark horns. Looking relaxed and content I can image our Netsuke-shi drawing inspiration from the deer at Nara Park.
The legend of Nara Park is one of my personal favourites, the god of thunder Takemikazuchi travelled to Nara in the 700’s. It is told that he arrived on top of a mountain riding a white deer. Takemikazuchi became a deity and was enshrined in the Kasuga shrine in Nara Park. From that point on the deer inhabiting the forest were deemed to be messengers of the gods and decreed sacred.
Until the 1600’s harming one of these sacred deer was punishable by death. To set eyes on them was viewed as a good omen from the gods. As a mark of respect, those people fortunate enough to see the deer would bow to them.
Deer are also linked closely to Autumn and often paired with the maple leaf. I have seen several Inro depicting Deer with rushing rivers and fallen maple leafs all symbols of Autumn.
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