追かけ独楽 (oikake koma)
The top depicted here is an oikake koma, or “chasing top.” It is designed to have a large, central spinning top around which two discs rotate. The discs are very lightweight and appear to chase one another, sometimes one leaping over the other as they spin. Hiroi-sensei explained that although the traditional “the tortoise and hare” stories are often seen on this type of top, before that, the imagery of a robber being chased by a dog was used, which he has painted here. In the video clip, he tells us about the Japanese image of a robber with a tennugui (a type of cloth) tied around his head.
Below, you’ll find a video of Hiroi-sensei explaining the top in Japanese, along with transcripts of the clip:
Hiroi Michiaki: Number two, this is…
Mrs. Hiroi: Chasing…
HM: The thief and the robber, yes.
MH: Yeah, that’s right.
HM: That chasing top you saw before that, um, spun around, that was the hare and the tortoise.
MH: That was the hare and the tortoise this time. But before, it was the thief and the robber.
HM: This, the dog pursues the robber, and the dog overtakes him.
Janell Landis: Sensei, Japanese robbers take the tennugui, and do this…
HM: Ah. That’s right, that’s right.
JL: They do this, that’s drawn there and it’s cute.
HM: A thief’s head-covering, a tennugui doing this…
JL: They hide the face.
HM: We don’t have a tennugui here do we.
MH: Don’t we? A red one.
JL: That’s alright. It’s… oh. We received tennugui from the hotel.
HM: Like this. The thief, for some reason, [ties it] like this, and does it in this way. (ties tenugui) And ties it here under the nose.
HM: Like this and like this. He does this and enters. And, um he puts the thing he swiped [on his shoulder] like this, and when he runs away the dog barks “Woof woof woof woof!” and when the dog chases him, he panics and runs away, but the dog gets ahead of him.
JL: His tale in Japanese. Robbery.
HM: It’s that sort of, um, playful feeling. The dog overtakes him and everyone claps and is happy [about it]. That sort of thing.