“Kintaro Capturing a Giant Carp”
天王寺 彫はる “金太郎の抱き鯉”


黒鉱のごとき重量感ときめ細やかさを呈する額を背景に、墨色の巨鯉に掴みかかる朱も鮮やかな金太郎が躍動する甲羅彫り。力強さと繊細さを両立させる手彫りの技で知られる天王寺 彫はる氏の作だ。


This is an excellent kora-bori (carapace style irezumi) in which Kintaro in vivid vermilion lively grabs onto a giant carp in sumi black, against the gaku background as heavy and fine-grained as black ore. The artist is Tennoji Horiharu, known for his tebori technique that combines strength and delicacy.

Although the carp and the background are depicted in the same color, the skillful use of different shade tones gives the carp a presence that makes it seem as if it is popping out rather than being buried in the gaku.


The dynamic splashing waves show the fierce movements of the giant carp as it tries to shake Kintaro off. In this way, the gaku is not just a backdrop to fill the blank space, but also a stage set that complements the movement of the subject and adds story nature.


Kintaro, also known as Kaidomaru, is the childhood name of Sakata-no-Kintoki who was given an important position by Minamoto-no-Yorimitsu and defetaed various monsters. He had extraordinary strength, as the legend has it that he won a sumo wrestling match against a bear in his childhood. The so-called “Dakigoi” (grabbing carp) seen here depicts Kintaro capturing a giant carp that ate people, cattle and horses.

Because of these episodes, “Kintaro grabbing a giant carp” is believed to be a design of good fortune that leads to success in life and a strong and healthy body. Since ancient times, the color vermillion has been believed to exorcize evil spirits, and Kintaro is usually depicted in vermilion to protect children from the pox that spread during the Edo period.
※See Horiharu’s interview here
And see more of his work on Instagram

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