I have documented various kokeshi adventures in this blog over the last few months. These trips have chiefly occurred in Tokyo or Gunma, with one to southern Fukushima Prefecture. However, from 18-27 June Naoko, the girls, and I upped the level of adventure dramatically by braving radioactivity and earthquake damage -- signs of which were everywhere -- and headed north into Tohoku (東北), the heartland of the traditional kokeshi world. Over the next few blog entries I'll recount the adventure's highlights, however here is an overview of our trip: On 18 June we visited Tsuchiyu Onsen (土湯温泉), a famous hot bath and kokeshi town in Fukushima (about 43 miles west-northwest of the nuclear power plant disaster area), for a couple of hours on our way to Misawa City (三沢市) in Aomori Prefecture (青森県). On 20 June we went to see a lone Tsugaru-style (津軽系) kokeshi maker in Kamikita Village (上北村), followed by a visit to an old kokeshi shop on the shore of Lake Towada (十和田湖). On 23 June,
after a two-day break from kokeshis, we crossed Mt. Hakkoda and passed through the onsen town of Kuroishi (黒石市) and headed to Hirosaki City (弘前市) where we met a couple of kokeshi makers at that city's "Neputa Mura" (ねぷた村) traditional crafts center. On 25 June we left Misawa for Kuroishi where we stayed in the onsen village of Nuruyu (温湯温泉), which is also a kokeshi-making area. On that day we visited a kokeshi maker's workshop, and then headed to the spectacular Kokeshi Museum (こけし館) in the hills outside Kuroishi. On 26 June we returned to the Kokeshi Museum for a couple of hours, and then headed south to Yuzawa Onsen (湯沢温泉) in Akita Prefecture (秋田県) where we spent the night and met a kokeshi maker of the Kijiyama Style (木地山系). On 27 June we headed through the heart of Yamagata Prefecture (山形県) to Tendo Onsen (天童温泉) where we visited two Yamagata Style (山形系) kokeshi makers' shops.
While this wasn't exactly the "kokeshi adventure to end all kokeshi adventures," it was pretty spectacular. We made lots of news friends, sampled delicious local foods, relaxed in many hot baths, immersed ourselves in the beautiful Tohoku countryside, and of course added plenty of new kokeshis to our collection. It was also, in a small way, our way of letting the people of northeastern Japan know that they haven't been forgotten in the post-disaster period. Over the next few days I look forward to providing detailed blog accounts of this significant kokeshi adventure.