Sunday, June 12, 2011

Kijiyama Kokeshis in Hachioji 八王子の木地山系こけし

Okuragumi Demolition Company.
Back in February Naoko, Emily and I had a fantastic Kokeshi Adventure in Hachioji, a large city within the greater Tokyo metro area near the mountains in the western part of the Kanto Plain. As reported in a blog back at that time, we visited the workshop and studio of Tokyo Kokeshi in the heart of Hachioji. On that same day we also visited Mr. Ogura Eiji (小椋英二さん) at his workplace in the suburbs of Hachioji, guided by information found in the Kokeshi Book. Unlike other kokeshi makers we've met, Mr. Ogura seems to do his art as a hobby. He does not have a workshop -- at least not one open to the public -- and in fact probably does not lathe the kokeshi bodies himself. We called him before showing up, and the person who answered was confused. "Kokeshis? What?" But Naoko explained about seeing his name in the Kokeshi Book, and we then received directions to what we thought was his "studio." After arriving it became clear why the person on the phone had no idea what we were talking about. Mr. Ogura, you see, is the owner of a demolition company called Oguragumi, and merely keeps some of his dolls in his office at the company for when visitors stop by. In my opinion the contrast between someone who demolishes buildings for a living, and one who makes kokeshi dolls couldn't be greater. Yet that's the way things are, and the Okuragumi building's giant rolling door depicts a mural of three kokeshis and a craftsman in honor of the tradition.
Okuragumi's giant kokeshi mural.
Anyway, Mr. Ogura's kokeshis are splendid -- earthy, understated, and folksy, with delightfully expressive faces. They are of the Kijiyama family (木地山系) of kokeshis that originated in Akita Prefecture (秋田県), and in fact his uncle was the famous kokeshi craftsman Ogura Kyutaro (小椋久太郎) from Akita. We were welcomed into the main office where a number of Mr. Ogura's kokeshis were on display, offered tea and juice, and simply enjoyed being around these beautifully crafted objects for about 20 minutes. Because this was an early kokeshi adventure we didn't really quite know what we were seeing, but it was definitely well worth the effort!

A selection of Mr. Ogura's kokeshis.
I really liked these. They have an unusual vase-shaped body.
A group of Ogura kokeshis.
Two giant kokeshis by Mr. Ogura's uncle Ogura Kyutaro.
Naoko was captivated by this one's charming face -- a true work of kokeshi art.


  1. I love these kokeshi with their natural wood bases. They seem more traditional.

  2. Hi, John,

    Could you give me public transportation directions on how to get to Mr. Ogura's workplace so that I can meet him and buy some of his kokeshi ? Thank you, Deborah

    1. Deborah,
      So sorry for the long delay in responding -- we had recently moved from Japan to the US when you wrote and I haven't been working on the blog. Mr. Ogura's work is really nice, and he's definitely a dedicated kokeshi craftsman. However, he seems to make them for fun and then puts them on display at his demoliiton company office. When we went he simply gave us a couple -- I sincerely doubt he would sell them to any visitor. As for public transportation, I am certain the only way to get there would be in a cab, and since Naoko and I drove I have no idea what train station or bus stop you would need to go to. My sincere apologies, but I can't help in this case.