This is a delightfully comical hollow pottery figure of a tiger which would have been purchased as a souvenir near a famous shrine. There is an inscription stamped on the side of the piece in red ink - this translates as “ Fushimi Inari Taisha” (Fushimi Inari Shrine). It was probably sold at a souvenir shop located near the Shrine entrance and would was probably purchased as a gift for some child. Or, for anyone with a sense of humor and the unusual.
Many depictions of tigers in both Korean and Japanese art are done with comical expressions and shapes. There are some who have theorized that since no tigers were indigenous to either country, the artists took artistic license to make their tiger's picture or sculpture. This one has a particularly laughable appearance - it is more spotted than striped - pink paws with turquoise claws - bright red lips - a pink mouth - two gold fangs - the pink and red ears - green eyebrows - and the goofiest of all goofy smiles. You can't help but smile just looking at the piece. The tiger measures 6 1/4" long by 3 7/8" wide by 4 3/4" high at the top of the tail curled over the tiger's back. It is in excellent condition with no chips, cracks or other issues. We date it to sometime in the late 20th century - it is at least as old as the 70s as that is when we found the piece.
Footnote: Fushimi Inari Taisha) is an important Shinto shrine in southern Kyoto. It is famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates, which straddle a network of trails behind its main buildings. The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari, which stands at 233 meters and belongs to the shrine grounds. Fushimi Inari is the most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. Foxes are thought to be Inari's messengers, resulting in many fox statues across the shrine grounds. Fushimi Inari Shrine has ancient origins, predating the capital's move to Kyoto in 794.