This is a small hand painted wooden okimono of Daikoku – one of the Seven Japanese Household Gods. The figure stands 3 1/2: high x 2 1/2" wide x 2 7/8"¾” deep and we date it to the late Edo to Early Meiji period, circa 1850-1895. The figure is in relatively good condition – miscellaneous chips to the paint on the edge of his hat and on the base. The base is probably not the original. It appears that there is something missing from the right hand and Daikoku frequently is portrayed with a wooden mallet in that hand and the end of the hand was chipped many years ago. Very nice patina and the grain of the wood is fascinating - wish we knew what kind of wood it is as the carver really used it to great advantage. We date the carving to the late 19th century.
In Japan, Daikokuten ,literally, god of great Darkness or Blackness, is one of the Japanese Seven Gods of Fortune. Daikoku is clad in Japanese robes and has a benign and smiling countenance. Daikoku is variously considered to be the god of wealth, or of the household, particularly the kitchen. He is recognized by his wide face, smile, and a flat black hat. He is often portrayed holding a golden mallet called a Uchide Nokozuchi, otherwise known as a magic money mallet, and is seen seated on bales of rice, with mice nearby (mice signify plentiful food).
Daikoku's images enjoys an exalted position as a household deity in Japan. Daikoku's association with wealth and prosperity gave rise to a strange custom known as Fuku-nusubi. This custom started with the belief that he who stole divine figures (gods and goddesses) was assured of good fortune, if not caught in the act of stealing. In the course of time stealing of divine images became so common a practice in Japan that the Toshi-no-ichi or the ‘year-end-market’ held in the Asakusa Kannon temple became the main venue of the sale and disposal of such images by the fortune-seekers. Many small stalls were opened where articles including images of Daikoku or Mahakala were sold on the eve of New Year celebrations