Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hirosaki Kokeshi 弘前のこけし

After leaving Okuse's kokeshi workshop in Kuroishi City (see previous blog) we headed east out of the hills toward downtown Hirosaki City 弘前市, a beautiful old castle town. Right next to the castle ruins is the Hirosaki Neputa Kan 弘前ねぷた館, a centralized cultural heritage center for the arts of Tsugaru, from kite makers, weavers, and musicians, to a couple of kokeshi makers. Of course we went there to meet the kokeshi makers, but I must say that the Hirosaki Nebuta Kan is a first-rate destination for all sorts of traditional arts from this part of Japan.    

External view of the Hirosaki Neputa Kan.

I'll let the photos below tell the story, but we did meet two kokeshi makers of the Tsugaru tradition from the Owani Onsen 大鰐温泉 branch: Mr. Hasegawa Kenzo 長谷川健三さん and son Mr. Hasegawa Masashi 長谷川優志さん both of whom live in Hirosaki and do their work in the Neputa Kan. A number of traditional handicrafts are alive in the Tsugaru region, and the Neputa Kan showcases and supports them. Really a great idea, and the fact that a section is devoted to kokeshis shows the importance of that craft. Of course we bought a couple of Hasegawa kokeshis that grace our collection, and as always it was fun to talk with the makers.
Our summer kokeshi adventure was continuing splendidly! 
Interior view where many of the artisans are located. Really a great idea.
Lena and Emily chatting with a kite maker. Kites and kite art are a Hirosaki tradition.
Hasegawa Kenzo at his workshop right in the heart of the Hirosaki Neputa Kan facility.
Observing the younger Hasegawa at his lathe. You have to love that noren 暖簾 hanging in the doorway.
Hasegawa Masashi turning out a kokeshi on his lathe.
A shelf of Hasegawa kokeshis.
A small army of Hasegawa kokeshis. I bought one of the tall ones in the back, which the elder Hasegawa considers his masterpiece.
Darumas are part of the kokeshi tradition and they always make me laugh. These are unique and fantastic.
Mr. Hasegawa shows off some of his tops to Lena. He has invented a 3-piece top that works great.
Kokeshis on display, as well as cords of wood that will someday become kokeshis. The dolls on the top were not for sale  by the way.
All hand painted -- simply amazing craftsmanship.

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