Antique Japanese ceramic roof tile decorated with swirling comma pattern. Roof tiles are called Kawara in Japan where they are used not only to protect a home from the elements but also as important architectural ornaments. Roof eves are sometimes decorated with special pendant tiles called nokimarugawara which feature a circular disk attached to a half-round tile. The disk (gatou) will often feature an image such as a household seal (kamon) or an image though to act as a protective charm. Decorated roof tiles often feature images associated with water, as such images were once thought to provide protection against the dangers of fire. An especially important water symbol was the swirling tomoe pattern. The basic tomoe design originated in China and has been used in Japan since at least the Yayoi period (300 B.C.-300 A.D.). The pattern always includes one or more comma-shaped swirls oriented in a right or left facing pattern. This image is thought to symbolize water as the Chinese character used to write this name translates as either “whirlpool” or “eddy”. The tomoe design has spiritual connotations as well and is frequently seen on religious implements and used with temple and shrine architecture.
About the Listed Item
The tomoe design on this particular nokimarugawara-style gatou is a three comma, right-facing pattern called migifutatsudomoe in Japanese. The tile is poor to fair condition with chips, marks and scratches as well as evidence of outdoor exposure and weathering. The tile dates from the mid Japanese Showa period (1926-1989) or earlier and was acquired in the historic city of Shizuoka, Japan near the foot of Mt. Fuji.
Diameter: 4.5 inches (11.5 centimeters)
Depth: 1.6 inches (4.0 centimeters)
Weight: 20.1 ounces (599 grams)
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More about Japanese roof tiles
Tiled roofs (hongawarabuki) are a distinguishing feature of most Japanese homes, as well as Buddhist temples, Shinto (native religion of Japan) shrines and many other types of old buildings. Kawara is the word the Japanese use to describe roof tiles in general, though there are in fact many styles and types of tiles with regional variations, and a large and specialized vocabulary is used to describe these. Japanese roof tiles are typically very well made and often outlive their intended function protecting structures from the elements. As a result, old roof tiles can sometimes be spotted in Japan being reused for unique and interesting purposes. Old roof tiles are sometimes used to reinforce earthen retaining walls, or stacked one next to another to make garden borders. Roof tiles are also buried vertically along dirt walkways with just the tips exposed a fraction of an inch above the surface to create artistic patterns and to act as paving surfaces. Decorative end caps called onigawara (ogre tiles) look especially nice as accent pieces within the home or on patios and especially when positioned amidst garden foliage.
item code: R1S5-0005770
ship code: G3