Beautifully carved cross-piece (yokogi) for a traditional Japanese kettle hook (jizaikagi). Such items were used for a special construction over open fire places (irori) in old houses for hanging the kettle. The counter balance had the function to adjust the position of the hook over the fire and were ususally carved in shape of a fish - may it either a koi carp or, like in this case, a sea bream with its typical high body.
This example here is of fine quality. The shape of the bream is naturally resembled by the carver who also spend much attention to the distinct fins of the animal. The fish is made of a single block of heavy zelkova wood, that is very resistant to the changing extremes of temperature and humidity over an open fire place. Neverthless, the surface shows traces of its extreme environment in form of a fine net of cracks that cross the whole object without any affect of weakening it. It is an extraordinary impression of a patina, that only occurs within ages of usage. This piece's natural beauty embodies the concept of Japanese aesthetic, that crystalizes within the notion of sabi. Originally part of the word pair wabi-sabi, sabi describes the attraction of objects that came through age and natural use.