味噌すり小僧 (misosuri kozō)
miso-grinding young priest
This top depicts a miso-grinding young priest (or perhaps an obake [monster/spirit]). Hiroi-sensei believes the tale originated from Gunma or Tochigi prefecture, where there was a one-eyed and one-legged priest who ground miso for use in miso soup. The story of this young man eventually became the basis for the tale of a one-eyed, one-legged obake. Here, the top is the one-eyed man, and the base is the grinding mortar. When the top is spun, it mimics the motion of a grinding pestle in a mortar.
Hiroi Michiaki: Ahh, ahh. This.
Mrs. Hiroi: Miso grinder.
Hiroi: The miso-grinding Buddhist priest…. young priest. From long ago, there was someone called the miso-grinding priest. Umm, the miso…
Mrs. Hiroi: He ground it.
Hiroi: Umm in a mortar he ground it like this… and that was used for ingredients for miso soup. At that time he was called the miso-grinding priest… or was it young priest…
Mrs. Hiroi: The top is shaped like a priest.
Hiroi: This is, um… a one-eyed monster. There are also other items like that. Mm. At first I thought it was just something fanciful, but in reality there was a person with this sort of appearance. That was the model, and it became a one-eyed monster, and a sign board was put up. In Gunma or Tochigi, he was said to be a person working at a temple. And of course he had one leg, it was damaged in an accident or something and he lost it. He was working at a temple, though. That seems to have become the model. And this is the miso-grinding priest, and then I made it into a top with the same meaning. [Even] though [people] say ‘Ah!’ they don’t really get it. (laughs) How should I put it…
Mrs. Hiroi: It spins just like it’s grinding miso. Here, inside.