Okimono rabbit parent and child
Meiji, 19th century
Signed: Sukemitsu tō (carved by Sukemitsu)
H: 10.5cm, D: 11.3cm, L: 18cm
A baby rabbit snuggles up to its parent. Each trace of chiseling finely expresses the rabbits’ fur. The small glass balls are set as their eyes. The artist Sukemitsu is unknown.
The rabbit is a popular animal which generally symbolizes the fertility. It symbolizes the devotion also because of a Buddhist tale. In the old Japanese collection of over one thousand tales written in the late Heian period (it is said around 12th century), Konjyaku Monogatarishū, there is an interesting story originated in a famous Buddhism tale.
Once upon a time, there were a rabbit, a fox and a monkey which were practicing asceticism of Buddhism in India. One day, an old shabby man appeared and asked them something to eat. Then, the monkey climbed trees to fetch the fruits or went to the villages to steal food. The fox went fishing in the river and went to the graveyards to steal the offerings for the dead. These two animals came back and started to cook for the poor old man. The rabbit came back without nothing because it run about everywhere to find foods, but in vain. Two other animals sneered and abused the rabbit. The rabbit said, “As you say, I couldn’t find anything for the man. So, please boil me, and eat me!”. The rabbit jumped into the fire just after he said. The old shabby man returned to the God Sakra. He praised the rabbit and put it on the moon so that everybody could reminds this rabbit’s good deed every time to see.
The devotion is a virtue that the Japanese have loved. Of course not only this story but also the rabbit’s lovely appearance or the image of fertility were liked. Especially the motif of a rabbit parent and child ensemble signifies the prolificacy.