My last two visits to Japan have been in late summer when the days are still hot but the intense humidity of high summer has dissipated and is often replaced with intermissions of warm heavy rain. At this time of year the American cultural influence on Japan is evident as shops start to display Halloween decorations and the cafes offer limited edition pumpkin flavored drinks and snacks in addition to the more traditional sweet chestnut.
At this time of year on clear days there is also a profusion of dragonflies performing aerial displays with one another or simply darting back and forth around gardens and bodies of water. When visiting the Hōryū-ji temple complex in Nara to see its many ancient buildings and treasures I noticed large swarms of dragonflies high in the air. I asked our guide why there were so many. He told me that the dragonflies were a sign that summer was drawing to a close and autumn was on it’s way. That simple idea has stayed with me.
This netsuke attempts to combine the old and new imagery associated with the impending arrival of autumn in modern Japan.
It is made from boxwood which has been stained and polished and measures 44mm across by 19mm tall.
It was carved in late 2017 and early 2018
Photos courtesy of Robert Willford