Antiques 2-28-09 and some pictures of an auction.

This is a Heian period Ko Tokoname vase. For more on the Heian period click here, here, or here. The vases with 3 incised rings are called sankinko. There are also vases with 2 rings, one ring and no ring. How many rings is an indicator of age. There is also a connection to Bhuddist telling of the future in the rings. On this particular point I am unclear. If you search “sankinko” most references point to the Bhuddist aspects of it. If you count from the space above the top ring as one, the next, between the top and second ring as two, the next between the bottom and middle as three, the space below the bottom as four and the foot area, that is to pick up the vase and look at the foot and count it as five you will have the corresponding areas mentioned in the fortune telling references. The Japanese words that correspond to the different areas are 1)= chi, earth, 2)=mizu, water, 3)=hi, fire, 4)=kaze, wind, 5)=sora, sky.  These are not in the order from top to bottom, that is to say #5,  the foot of the vase isn’t sora, sky. I am unsure of this aspect.

These vases have an interesting aspect to them. They went through a period of being shunned when it was discovered some of them were used as cremation urns. The vases used for that purpose have holes in them, to drain liquids, again, a point I am unclear on. I don’t understand what the liquid would be that needed to be drained. People selling antiques then started to repair the holes and sell the vases. The point being there are a lot of these vases around with holes that have been repaired. They are worth less than one with out a hole or one that hasn’t been repaired.

Now, as a side note. In my village, which is off the beaten track, the bodies aren’t cremated. They are buried. This is a fact I found out about after asking why the candles that line the path from the deceased person’s house to the cemetary wern’t lit. If the body is buried the candles are left unlit. If the body is cremated they are. My lay understanding is the spirit uses the candle light as a guide.

The last three pictures are of the main auction I attend every month. The pictures are from a local magazine, Naranto is the name. The dealers would have a collective heart attack were I to whip out a camera. They are very sensitive to things they are selling being photographed, a fact I found out the first time I attended the auction and started to take out my camera.

The photos show the auction taking place in the alternative venue. It happens there on weekends and holidays as the main room isn’t available during these times. I prefer the alternative venue as the catered lunch is seafood based. At the main place, in a hotel ballroom, the catered lunch is meat curry with rice. I don’t eat meat so I end up lunching on sweet bean paste rolls. Not the best to keep your mind alert.  The photo shows the inner circle of bidders. I usually pace around the outside looking at the baskets as they pass. In one of the photos there are a number of large Imari chargers about to go up on the block.

To get into this auction group you need to be accepted into  a sub- group, the minimum size of a sub- group being 3 with some of the groups having 10 or more members. The group is mainly for insurance. You join and make a commitment to guarantee  the purchases made by everyone in the group. If one of the group doesn’t pay their bill for purchases everyone else is responsible. A product of this set up is groups tend to shill bid for the members in their group, withdrawing from the bidding when the person selling the item has hit the price they want. The antidote to this is to not let yourself be pushed up by members of the persons group, difficult for me as I don’t know who is who.


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4 Responses to “Antiques 2-28-09 and some pictures of an auction.”

  1. Andrea Kobayashi Says:

    Super-interesting to read about the auction procedure. Sounds kinda scary!

  2. Dean Kelly Says:

    Hi Dave,

    Quite an interesting thread. The style of vase you posted has quite a background. I also do not understand the purpose of the hole in the bottom. It sounds like they must do cremations different in Japan than they do in the USA if there are liquids involved. After the liquids drain, it would seem like the powder would drain out as well. Maybe this is another was of letting the spirit depart. You sound like when you get an interesting piece you learn all you can about it so that are prepared for future pieces.

    The auction sounds fascinating to me. It is a shame you are not able to provide pictures of the pieces for sale. I wonder why the hesitation on the part of the sellers to have pictures taken.

    It sounds like based on the structure of the groups that you certainly need to know someone well before you accept them in your group. What is the incentive to accept someone new in your group since you could be held responsible for their purchases. Is it to keep the group going and viable?

    Great post.


    • togeii Says:

      Hello Dean,
      Thanks for your comment.
      I also don’t know the reason for the hole. I would guess there was some kind of mediating agent so the ash wouldn’t drain; rocks or a mesh.
      Yes, the auction is really fascinating. The dealers are buying at a price that gives them plenty of room to make a profit. That is the reason they don’t want pictures going around. It would be too easy to calculate their profits. My guess. I am very interested in building up a photo library of marks and feet so I am waiting for a chance to find a way to take pictures and not offend anyone.
      I think the structure of the society here facilitates this kind of linking of arms to guarantee each other. The antiques dealer world isn’t huge and they all rely to a certain extent on the good will of each other. It wouldn’t be wise to offend or not pay bills unless it was unavoidable.

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