The manju is carved with Kintoki and the Carp from an unusual perspective, on a rope with a Cinnabar lacquer ojime, the back with an attractive patina.
Diam. approx. 4 cm
Private collection, United Kingdom
With us, pre-2021
Kintarō (金太郎, often translated as "Golden Boy") or Kintoki is a folk hero from Japanese folklore. A child of superhuman strength, he was raised by a Yamanba (the mountain witch) on Mount Ashigara. He became friendly with the animals of the mountain, and later, after catching Shuten-dōji, the terror of the region around Mount Ōe, he became a loyal follower of Minamoto no Yorimitsu under the new name Sakata no Kintoki (坂田 金時). He is a popular figure in Bunraku and kabuki drama, and it is a custom to put up a Kintarō doll on Boy's Day in the hope that boys will become equally brave and strong.
Kintarō is supposedly based on a real person, Sakata Kintoki, who lived during the Heian period and probably came from what is now the city of Minamiashigara, Kanagawa. He served as a retainer for the samurai Minamoto no Yorimitsu and became well known for his abilities as a warrior. As with many larger-than-life individuals, his legend has grown with time.
The legends agree that even as a toddler, Kintarō was active and tireless, plump and ruddy, wearing only a bib with the kanji for "gold" (金) on it. His only other belonging was a hatchet (ono or masakari). He was bossy to other children (or there simply were no other children in the forest), so his friends were mainly the animals of Mt. Kintoki and Mt. Ashigara. He was also phenomenally strong, able to smash rocks into pieces, uproot trees, and bend trunks like twigs. His animal friends served him as messengers and mounts, and some legends say that he even learned to speak their language. Several tales tell of Kintarō's adventures, fighting monsters and oni (demons), beating bears in sumo wrestling, and helping the local woodcutters fell trees.
As an adult, Kintarō changed his name to Sakata no Kintoki. He met the samurai Minamoto no Yorimitsu as he passed through the area around Mt. Kintoki. Yorimitsu was impressed by Kintarō's enormous strength, so he took him as one of his personal retainers to live with him in Kyoto. Kintoki studied martial arts there and eventually became the chief of Yorimitsu's Shitennō ("four braves"), renowned for his strength and martial prowess. He eventually went back for his mother and brought her to Kyoto as well.