Japanese and Chinese antiques and art from B & C
Japanese Keyaki Kettle Hook Hanger Jizai Gake

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Directory: Archives: Regional Art: Asian: Japanese: Pre 1900: item # 1152348

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Japanese Keyaki Kettle Hook Hanger Jizai Gake

This fine heavy wooden pothook or kettle-hook hanger (“jizai-gake”), hand carved from a large block of densely-grained zelkova (keyaki) wood, was once suspended by a heavy rope from the high roof beams of a Japanese home or shop. Edo/Meiji period, 19th century. This is a wonderful example of the Daikoku type of kettle-hook hanger, distinguished by the integral, inverted V-shaped roof-like upper part of the hook, which reminds the Japanese of Daikoku’s floppy cap. Daikoku was one of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune. The hook itself was carved from a single large block of wood; the short transverse peg around which the rope was strung was carved from a separate piece of wood. There is a bold simplicity in the carving of this hook which gives the piece a wonderful sculptural quality.

In the center of the main room of traditional Japanese houses of the Edo and Meiji periods stood an open hearth in which a small charcoal fire was kept burning. Above the fire was a suspension device called a “jizai” (self-adjuster) from which an iron kettle could be hung and raised or lowered as needed. A large wooden pothook hanger (“jizai-gake”) was suspended by a heavy rope from the high roof beams. The other end of this rope was attached to the adjuster (“yokogi,” i.e., crosspiece) through which the rope passed just above the iron hook. The weight of a pot on the iron hook pulled down on the rope and jammed it tight inside its hole through the crosspiece. Moving the yokogi to a horizontal position released this tension and permitted the kettle to be raised or lowered. Because the fire was maintained on an open hearth in the middle of the floor, this kettle suspension apparatus was always in plain view of guests or customers. Well-to-do farmers and merchants vied with one another to obtain large, impressive kettle-hook hangers made of fine wood, carefully formed and finished. Zelkova was the most expensive wood used for this purpose. It is a sturdy, long-lasting hardwood with a beautiful dense grain, and it requires little maintenance.

Folk-craft products or “mingei,” of which this kettle hook is representative, are objects used by common people. These commonplace, functional artifacts are endowed with a beauty directly connected with their utility – a beauty that is simple, humble and unassuming. Considered a quintessential example of Japanese folk art, keyaki wood jizai-gake are represented in most major collections of mingei or Japanese folk art.

CONDITION is excellent, with a wonderful natural mellow patina from years of smoke and the authenticity of charred wood. This is considered normal wear, consistent with age and usage.

DIMENSIONS: 11 ½” (29.3 cm) high, 11 ½” (29.3 cm) wide, 3 ¼” (8.5 cm) thick. Weight: 7.5 pounds (3.4 kg)

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