This pincushion is contained in a luxurious Shikki, or Yamanaka lacquerware, bowl with a lid. It is made of wood and has multiple coats of lacquerware on it. The cushion is covered with a wave patterned fabric that represents the ocean. There are also 5 hand-formed pins with characters from the folktale, Issunboshi, or Inch Boy.
Dimensions: 1-3/4" x 1-3/4" (47 mm x 47 mm)
Made by a company with over 85 years of experience in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan. The company collaborated with Hiro, a Kanazawa-based artisan, to create this piece. Hiro's work, with distinct designs adapting traditional craft techniques nourished in Ishikawa Prefecture, are very popular in Japan and highly regarded around the world.
Each pin cushion and set of pins comes boxed with an illustrated scroll with the folktale written in Japanese. It also includes a version of the folktale in English.
By the way, in English when we start folktales we say "once upon a time...", and in Japanese people say "mukashi, mukashi..." which means "long long ago...".
So, mukashi, mukashi, there was an old, childless couple. They wished for a child and prayed each day, "Please, please let us have a child, no matter how small." Eventually, a son was born to them. But small indeed, the child was only 1-sun (around 3 cm or just over 1 inch) in height and never grew taller. Thus, they named their cute son Issunbōshi.
One day, the boy went on a trip to see the world. The old couple equipped him with a sewing needle for a sword, a bowl for a boat and chopsticks for oars. The one-inch warrior Issunbōshi sailed down the river for the city.
He became a bodyguard to the minister's beautiful daughter in the capital. One day, they were attacked by an ogre (oni). The ogre opened his mouth and swallowed Issunbōshi. But he, down in the monster's stomach, kept stabbing away, until the ogre finally spat him out and ran away. The ogre dropped his magical mallet as he went. The princess picked it up and made the wish for Issunbōshi to be tall.
Then, he became a great man, and married the princess. Soon after, he invited the old man and his wife to the city, and they all lived happily ever after.