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Japanese Animal Statues

Japanese animal statues, despite fairly late conception in respect to Asian art history, bear great significance in Japanese culture in depicting and representing Japanese beliefs and folklore. Largely influenced by Chinese sculpture during the 5th century, the Japanese picked up many sculptural techniques and motifs from the Silk Route.

Many of these sculptural motifs were created for religious purposes – either for Shintoism or Buddhism. These supernatural deities were called “kami." Kami sculptures are usually inspired by existing animal forms and represent natural elements. One of the most obvious influences from Chinese statues in Japanese sculpture making is the Komainu.

The Komainu is equivalent to the Chinese “Foo-dog” or “Foo-lion." These lion-like statues are usually seen guarding the outside or inside of a Shinto or Buddhist shrine or temple. In most cases, one of the Komainu is represented with an open mouth, while the other’s mouth is closed. Together, the open and closed mouths represent the beginning and end of all things. Similarly, the Inari Okami is often placed outside of Shinto shrines.


Quick Facts

  • In Japanese culture, kami are neither all good nor all bad. Instead, they are both positive and negative and are spiritual elements of nature that are invisible to the human eye
  • A common Japanese animal sculpture is the Tanuki. The Tanuki are composite and shape-shifting raccoon-dog creatures historically known for being tricksters and evil spirits often haunting or possessing humans. Today, Tanuki are known more for amiable personalities and represent business success
  • Fried tofu is believed to be one of the favorite food of foxes. Therefore, fried tofu is commonly offered to Inari Okami to bring success to an individual’s life

Recommended Items at Auction

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Japanese Tokyo School Bronze Elephant Sculpture
May 23, 12:00 PM EDT
Japanese Tokyo School Bronze Elephant Sculpture
by Akiba Galleries
Est: $100- $1,000
$501 Bid
A Japanese carved ivory articulated crayfish, Length 19cm, unsigned
Jun 02, 7:00 PM AEST
A Japanese carved ivory articulated crayfish, Length 19cm, unsigned
by Lawsons
Est: AUD1,500- AUD2,500
AUD151 Bid
Lot Of 3 Finely Carved Miniature Japanese Animal Figures
Jun 01, 12:00 PM EDT
Lot Of 3 Finely Carved Miniature Japanese Animal Figures
by RB Fine Arts
Est: $50- $250
$201 Bid
A Japanese Bronze Sculpture of Rabbits
May 22, 10:00 AM EDT
A Japanese Bronze Sculpture of Rabbits
by Hindman
Est: $1,000- $3,000
$5001 Bid
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JAPANESE CERAMIC TURKEY
Jun 01, 11:00 AM CEST
JAPANESE CERAMIC TURKEY
by Galerie Moenius
Est: €80- €160
€800 Bids
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19th Century Japanese artist: Pelican
May 30, 6:00 PM CEST
19th Century Japanese artist: Pelican
by Bodo Gallery and Auction House
Est: Ft2,000,000- Ft3,000,000
Ft1,400,0000 Bids
Japanese Porcelain Cat
May 29, 11:00 AM EDT
Japanese Porcelain Cat
by Willow Auction House
Est: $100- $150
$500 Bids
Japanese Silver Plate Tortoises Figurine Signed Yoshihide
Jun 02, 10:00 AM PDT
Japanese Silver Plate Tortoises Figurine Signed Yoshihide
by Taylor & Harris
Est: $600- $800
$4500 Bids
Bronze Japan
May 26, 10:00 AM CEST
Bronze Japan
by Auktionshaus Kloss
Est: €200- €300
€1500 Bids
Japanese Wood Carving of a Monkey
May 24, 9:00 AM EDT
Japanese Wood Carving of a Monkey
by Montgomery Auction
Est: $200- $400
$500 Bids
Japanese Porcelain Monkey Figurine
May 24, 9:00 AM EDT
Japanese Porcelain Monkey Figurine
by Montgomery Auction
Est: $40- $60
$200 Bids
Japanese Bronze Tiger Sculpture
Jun 01, 9:00 AM EDT
Japanese Bronze Tiger Sculpture
by Dana J. Tharp Auctions
Est: $300- $500
$750 Bids
A Japanese Meiji period bronze figure group depicting the lion attacking the tiger. H 15cm, W 24cm
May 26, 12:00 PM AEST
A Japanese Meiji period bronze figure group depicting the lion attacking the tiger. H 15cm, W 24cm
by Christian McCann Auctions
Est: AUD2,000- AUD3,000
AUD1,6000 Bids
A large bronze sculpture of a heron on a root wood base with details in gold, shakudo and silver
Jun 11, 9:30 AM CEST
A large bronze sculpture of a heron on a root wood base with details in gold, shakudo and silver
by Nagel Auction
Est: €8,000- €12,000
€7,5000 Bids
Antique Japanese Porcelain Animal Figurines/Toys
May 31, 1:00 PM EDT
Antique Japanese Porcelain Animal Figurines/Toys
by Block Auction House
Est: $10- $10,000
$50 Bids
Japanese Bronze Beast
May 30, 10:00 AM EDT
Japanese Bronze Beast
by Stallion Hill Gallery
Est: $600- $800
$3000 Bids
Japanese Meiji Gilt Porcelain Pigeon
May 30, 10:00 AM EDT
Japanese Meiji Gilt Porcelain Pigeon
by Stallion Hill Gallery
Est: $1,200- $1,500
$6000 Bids
Japanese Mixed Metal Bird
May 30, 10:00 AM EDT
Japanese Mixed Metal Bird
by Stallion Hill Gallery
Est: $1,500- $2,000
$7500 Bids
Japanese Meiji Bronze Monkey Fight Rabbit
May 30, 10:00 AM EDT
Japanese Meiji Bronze Monkey Fight Rabbit
by Stallion Hill Gallery
Est: $7,000- $9,000
$3,5000 Bids
Japanese Mixed Alloyed Model of a Hawk
May 30, 10:00 AM EDT
Japanese Mixed Alloyed Model of a Hawk
by Stallion Hill Gallery
Est: $2,000- $3,000
$1,0000 Bids
A BRONZE GROUP OF A TIGER AND A CROCODILE BY SANO TAKACHIKA
Jun 11, 9:30 AM CEST
A BRONZE GROUP OF A TIGER AND A CROCODILE BY SANO TAKACHIKA
by Nagel Auction
Est: €2,500- €3,500
€2,4000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Japanese Animal Statues


Nagel Auction

Nagel Auction

Stallion Hill Gallery

Stallion Hill Gallery

Yu Jen Taipei

Yu Jen Taipei

Lawsons

Lawsons