Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Kokeshi Friends Association Meeting 2

Getting here was the easy part...
After almost two months away from the blog I'm back, but before returning to our Tohoku trip I wanted to briefly recount a meeting of the Tokyo Kokeshi Tomo no Kai (Tokyo Kokeshi Friends Association) that Naoko and I attended on 28 August. Naoko is a member and I am not, but guests are welcome and as the only American in the room I was probably something of a novelty for the club members. Anyway, the meeting took place on the eighth floor of a very nondescript office building on a nondescript street in the Kanda Ward of downtown Tokyo. After exiting the Kanda train station we ate lunch and then gradually got lost, forcing us to call Naoko's sister who went to the club's web site and got us going in the proper direction. Fortunately, we arrived in time. As you may recall I wrote about Naoko's attending the meeting a couple months ago, and she came home with a huge haul of kokeshis so I really had to attend a meeting too. I'm glad I did, and frankly if you are a traditional kokeshi lover then this is the club for you. It is about kokeshis, pure and simple. As we entered the room we paid our fee, received our commemorative kokeshi, and also received a number which was our ticket for the kokeshi drawing. There were a couple hundred used kokeshis that were available sitting on a table in the middle of the room (and a large selection of used kokeshi books), and I must say that the drawing was about the most democratic system of ensuring everyone was happy that could possibly have been devised (I'll explain in a moment). There were also about 20 kokeshis with base prices that were up for bid, all of which were expensive. The hardcore collectors understood their value, whereas they just looked like beat up old kokeshis to me. Ha ha. I'm really not much of a connoisseur I guess. The drawing, though, was where the
We shouldn't have made that left turn at Albuquerque...
 action was, and before the meeting began everyone (about 85 of us) looked closely at the pieces and decided which ones we would get when our turn came up, assuming someone else hadn't already chosen them. After the minutes, during which we learned of the recent deaths of a couple of kokeshi craftsmen, the drawing began. As I said, it was really fair: Each person would get two chances  to pick kokeshis after their number was drawn. The first time around you could pick one kokeshi or book, and then after everyone got their turn the second round began, at which time you could pick two kokeshis or books. Each one had a little colored dot on its head which corresponded to a price ranging from 500-3,000 yen. 500 yen kokeshis had yellow dots and were the most abundant, with green representing 1,000 yen, red 1,500, and so forth. During the first round Naoko's number was picked at about the 40th position, and she found a nice grabbed a couple of Takobozu, a kokeshi of the Yajiro type from Aizu-Wakamatsu in Fukushima Prefecture. They have surprised, big eyes and blue and red stripes, making them particularly striking. When my number came up the two pieces I was interested were still there, and I picked a beautiful medium-sized Owani kokeshi, which is a branch of the Tsugaru kokeshi family. The second time around Naoko discovered a nice Tsugaru crafted by a master named Mr. Akira Kon whom she had met up in Kuroishi during our big summer trip. On my second round I serendipitously found found a beautiful Yajiro type by Mr. Sato, our friend from Gunma -- what good luck! After everyone had their second chance the floor was opened and you could purchase whatever you wanted, kokeshis or books. Like a horde of locusts in a rice field the kokeshi collectors descended upon the tables and pretty much snatched up everything. I mean why not? After all, most of the kokeshis were only 500 or 1,000 yen. The expensive ones were also bid on, most of which sold. Naoko and I also each bought a book, even though I have recently been thinning our home library and stating that I'll never buy another book, ever. Books on kokeshis, however, seem to have been exempted from this stern proclamation... Oh, we also got an event poster for this weekend's Naruko Kokeshi Festival at Naruko Onsen in northern Miyagi Prefecture (which we are attending, typhoon or no typhoon). I'll have to have that framed soon.
Pre-drawing kokeshi scoping.
Of course we had a great time seeing and purchasing some kokeshis, but I have to say that what made the meeting a real delight was meeting the club members, a couple of whom I had met before, but most of whom were new. Honestly, kokeshi collectors are really such a pleasant group of people, and I look forward to seeing them again at a future gathering. Overall, yet another successful kokeshi adventure!

I got the one in the right foreground during the first round. I liked the unusually realistic face.  
Kokeshis up for drawing. Note the colored stickers on each head representing the price.
Naoko got the Takobozu in the middle. 
This face is one of the reasons why I love kokeshis. 
The books were quite popular too.
Naoko wanted the fat one in the center, but it was claimed before her number was drawn. 
A very Kijiyama kokeshi by the recently deceased master Mr. Hideichi Sato. 
This is all that remained after the buying frenzy.