This is a finely hand carved, 19th Century Wood Netsuke depicting Ashinaga "Long Legs"and Tenaga "Long Arms", in a classic posture, one carrying the inverted other over his shoulders.
According to "Pointers and Clues to the Subjects of Chinese and Japanese Art", by Will Edmunds, "Ashinag and Tenaga are mythical people supposed to inhabit the islands Ashinaga-jima, and Tenaga-jima, east of the Shakasui or Water-ladle river, all imaginary places. As they lived principally upon fish in deep water, the long-legged man walked into it bearing on his back a long-armed man who could reach down into the depths and catch the fish, which were then dived between them."
Excellent form and details on this piece, as well as a wonderful, rich patina. Signed Mindoku on Ashinaga's right leg.
This excellent miniature sculpture measures 0.87 inches (2.2cm) in diameter, and 3.02 inches (7.6cm) tall. Ashinagas' right foot has a hairline, but, otherwise, its in excellent condition, as shown in the posted photos.
NOTE: The reference to the carvers signature, Minkoku, is found on page 675-670 of George Lazarnick's "Netsuke and Inro Artists, and How to Read their Signatures", 1982 edition.