Posts Tagged 'incense'

Object: Incense Burner

Japanese Incense Burners

Accession Number: E/1955/1/007

Object: Two 4 ¾” incense burners

Location: Japan

Date: Unknown

Materials: Clay

Keywords: Japan, Incense, Authenticity, Tradition

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The objects that were researched are two 4 ¾” inches clay incense burners. They were collected by the museum in 1955 without a known age and were given to the donor by a missionary that went to Japan named Victor Searle. The incense burners have a conical base and a spherical top with a cylindrical opening on top of the sphere where one would put the incense sticks as well as caps to go on the top of each opening. The outside of the incense burners is simple in design and are unglazed, but each incense burner has two daisies made of clay and painted on the outside. They are unglazed on the outside but have a green glaze on the inside that gives the impression that it was not used at all due to its good condition. The overall condition of the incense burners is great with only minor cracks primarily on the daisies and a chip out of one of the lids. There is also a signature in Japanese characters at the base of each of the incense burners that is 深草焼. The characters are translated as Fukakusaki Yakinikuyaki.

espinozasantos_76205_9645363_20180213_095327

Japan is a country that is a country that is the majority atheist. Despite this, there are many shrines and other religious sites all throughout Japan. The two most prominent religions in Japan are Buddhism and Shintoism. The most well-known visually to those in the West are likely Shinto shrines, but in actuality, the largest religion in Japan is Buddhism[1]. This led my initial research into what incense burners might be used for in Buddhism. Due to the size of the incense burners, they definitely felt like they would be intended for personal use in the home. This would mean that the incense burners would likely be used at a Butsudan. Butsudan are shrines in the home intended for Buddhist ancestor worship, a practice meant to connect the living to their ancestors through offers and prayers[2].

Ryukyu_Butsudan

Example of a Butsudan. By “Tharos Tharos”  , via Wikimedia Commons

This seemed like the most likely possibility until its likely origin was researched further. The signature at the base of the incense burners seemed like it would be a signature of the artist who made them, but after searching online for the characters an article was found that discussed at Fukakusa kiln. The article discussed the history of the kiln and mentioned pottery being made there dating back to the 12th century[3]. It gave the impression of a traditional pottery kiln that was still continuing to make pottery even in the mass produced modern society that exists in Japan today. Once I explored the kiln’s website the conclusion changed.

https://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?depth=1&hl=en&prev=search&rurl=translate.google.com&sl=ja&sp=nmt4&u=http://fukakusagama.com/room.html&xid=17259,15700023,15700105,15700124,15700149,15700168,15700173,15700201&usg=ALkJrhi6ztAvKEIq7En0n85PQbaMCo7CDw

 

 

That’s a link to the English translated version of the website so you can explore it yourself. The kiln has appeared to have become commercialized, but not so much that it loses its traditional appearance. The images on the site look like it has traditional pottery classes, but it also has clearly gone under some Western influence due to their addition of a “pizza making experience.” The current state of the incense burner’s original kiln combined with the fact that the incense burners had no apparent use it led to the conclusion that they were never intended for spiritual use. They most likely were simply souvenirs picked up by the American missionary on a mission to Japan. This brings the authenticity of the objects into question as traditional artisans might have crafted them, but they were not intended for a traditional use.

Despite the incense burners not having any intention to be used for traditional reasons I find that they are still authentic items. It can be looked at in a similar light to the “ugly jugs” of the South. Traditional artists in southern states had to adapt to the new society full of mass produced products to be able to survive. The Fukakusa kiln also had to adapt to the changing society of the post-war Japanese society. Huge influxes of Western culture and influence altered aspects of Japanese society and the Fukakusa kiln adapted to it. The addition of pizza baking in pottery kilns definitely does not sound like what would happen in traditional Japanese kilns, but in the society, they exist in now it is fitting. Remaining traditional always seems like a litmus test for remaining authentic to one’s culture or tradition, but as the world changes so do the pieces of the world and the Fukakusa kiln remains authentic as it progresses through a changing society. Though these incense burners may have only been intended for a Western traveler to buy while on a trip and that the kiln is now a tourist attraction with heavy Western influences the two burners exist as an example of a traditional art adapting to the change of time.

 

((Santos Espinoza)) Written as part of the ANTH1253 2018 Spring Semester Class Project

Works Cited

“Fukakusa Kiln.” fukakusagama. Accessed February 21, 2018. https://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?depth=1&hl=en&prev=search&rurl=translate.google.com&sl=ja&sp=nmt4&u=http://fukakusagama.com/room.html&xid=17259,15700023,15700105,15700124,15700149,15700168,15700173,15700201&usg=ALkJrhi6ztAvKEIq7En0n85PQbaMCo7CDw.

“FUKAKUSAKI YAKINIKUYAKI.” turuta. Accessed February 15, 2018. https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=ja&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fturuta.jp%2Fstory%2Farchives%2F10631&edit-text=.

Kim, Hyunchul. “The Purification Process of Death: Mortuary Rites in a Japanese Rural Town.” Asian Ethnology 71, no. 2 (2012): 225-57. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23339392.

“世界各国の宗教.” Ttcn.ne. Accessed February 25, 2018. https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=ja&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww2.ttcn.ne.jp%2Fhonkawa%2F9460.html&edit-text=

 

[1] 世界各国の宗教

[2] Kim, 231.

[3] FUKAKUSAKI YAKINIKUYAKI

 

 


Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

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