Ref. Number: 1120 - 1092

Country: Japan

Material: wood

jizai-gake

jizai-gake

The central area of the main room in Japanese houses or shops from the Edo and Meiji periods all featured an interior open sunken hearth, or “irori” in which a small charcoal fire was constantly kept burning throughout the year. Each would feature a suspension device called a “jizai” or self-adjuster, above the fire from which an iron kettle was hung that could be raised and lowered as required. A “jizai-gake” or large wooden pothook hanger was suspended by heavy rope from the high ceiling or roof beams. The adjuster, or “yokogi” was then attached to the lower end of the rope which passed through the device just above the iron hook. This set up allowed the weight of an iron pot or kettle to pull the rope tightly through the hole in the crosspiece and jam it in place. By moving the yokogi to a horizontal position the tension was released and would then allow for the kettle or pot to be raised or lowered.

Due to the fact that that the fire was maintained in an open sunken hearth in the middle of the floor, the kettle suspension device was naturally in full view of any guests or customers. As a result, merchants and the more well-to-do farmers would compete with each other to acquire large and impressive kettle hook hangers that were made of carefully formed and elaborately finished fine woods. The most expensive wood used was Zelkova or “Keyaki”, a sturdy hardwood with a beautiful dense grain pattern that requires little maintenance.

jizai-gake

jizai-gake

- The Ebisu type, or “J” formed kettle-hook hanger featured faceted edges as well as two projecting pegs that were used to suspend it from the ceiling or roof beams. These hooks were usually large and sculptural and reminiscent of the letter “J”. Heavy grooves would be prominent in the crotch of the hook from the wear and tear of the heavy rope. Years of heat and smoke incrustation from the open hearth fire would result in an exceptional patina.

- The Daikoku kettle-hook hanger is distinguishable by an inverted V-shaped upper part of the hook, almost roof-like and reminiscent of Daikoku’s floppy hat or part of the Chinese character for roof, or home. Daikoku was one of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune and is one of Japan’s beloved kitchen deities, with Ebisu being the other. Craved from a large single block of wood, the hook featured a traverse peg that was carved from a separate piece of wood around which the suspension rope was strung. Featured again are prominent grooves in the crotch of the hook resulting form wear and a fine patina from years of heat and smoke incrustation.

Folk-craft products or “Mingei” are objects hand crafted and used by the common people of Japan. These kettle-hook hangers are but one fine example of the artistic ingenuity that is functional and unassuming yet beautiful and highly collectible. Keyaki wood jizai-gake are considered a quintessential example of Japanese folk art and are therefore represented in most major collections of Mingei.

More information:
Mingei: Japanese Folk Art from the Montgomery Collection

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