Nio - 5509

Not signed, Japan

Nio (Kongo Misshaku)
II half 19th century
7,2x3,0x2,5 cm
2005 bequest Maria Taglietti Lanfranchi
Inv. 5509

The netsuke depicts a Nio (Kongo Misshaku) bare-chested and wearing only a skirt tied at the waist, his hair gathered into a bun. In his left hand raised high, he holds a vajra (in Japanese kongosho, 金剛杵), a kind of ritual weapon with very powerful symbolic meanings.  The two holes of the himotoshi, one slightly larger than the other, are located on the back of the figure, at the height of the pelvis.

The Nio (仁王), literally "two kings" are guardians of Buddhist law. The statues representing them are usually placed at the entrance of temples. Of the two Nio, the one pictured with his mouth open is called Kongo Rikishi, and the other with the mouth closed - shown in this example - is known as Kongo Misshaku. According to popular belief, these deities ensure health and physical power. An ancient custom is to touch the head with a wad of chewed paper which is then thrown to the Nio: if it sticks to the right point then the disorder that afflicts those who ask for gods' help gods will disappear.