The best advice I got when I wanted to find and buy a Japanese jizai, was to start looking at these wood tool sculptures, look at as many as I could find, and did I want one with a ‘hat’ called Daikoku or not. Some sculptures were nine inches by six inches, others similar in size to mine. There were those artfully carved and those that appeared as chunks of bent wood with little appreciation of the grain. It is difficult to explain the use of a jizai, and even more difficult to find one in illustration. The roof of a building had strong wood beams, and in the middle of the room was an area that held a fire, with an iron pot suspended above on a long bamboo pole. This in turn was suspended from the ceiling with ropes and these hooks, varying in size & thickness & accomplished skill. The wood hook is carved from one piece of hard wood, the most valuable keyaki (zelkovia), showing the marks from the rope that was suspended. Always look closely at these marks as they have been enhanced for bigger profit.

From the late 1970’s to 2000, I was primarily a dealer of Japanese textiles with a few other antiques. I always admired these large wood tools, but they were expensive, and my profit went to inventory. Then I became an appraiser of Asian Art and decided I really wanted to buy one for myself. I spoke with various respected dealers and got very good advice. Look at many. The first time I had seen the above pictured Daikoku jizai it was in the 1990’s at Honeychurch’s booth at The Pacific Arts and Textile Show. I don’t remember the price. The next time was at Cathryn Cootner’s booth in 2008 for sale for $8,000. The last time was November 2021 when I purchased it auction from Cathyrn Cootner’s estate for $1,500. Then paid the same in auction premium and shipping. The other jizai I had purchased during my quest in 2010 for $5,000. Now I have both styles.

I learned that jizai with a ‘hat’ were more expensive and suggested they were owned by samurai. Only the stone lanterns and graves of the samurai were allowed a hat or roof, that same law applied to crafts such as a jizai. Both pictured tools are large, a value characteristic as well as the type of wood. Use is evident on both sculptures, the patina a deep colored brown achieved over years over a smoky fire and evidence of a shaving tool can also be seen. There are several faceted angles especially on the non Daikoku type.

If you go looking to buy be careful. There are prices that go from low hundreds to $10,000. Be sure you trust provenance and dealer.