The heartland of Aomori Prefecture's kokeshi tradition is the northwest area, known by its traditional name Tsugaru 津軽 where the Tsugaru-type 津軽系 kokeshi originated. They are easy to spot with the Ainu pattern near the neckline, a clearly defined female waist and chest, and often the Buddhist saint Daruma's 達磨 face at the base. Although there is of course variety among the makers' works, when you see a true Tsugaru kokeshi you know it immediately.
|Our drive to get to Kuroishi took us past Mt. Hakkoda 八甲田山 and through these smaller mountains. It was pretty wild in this area.|
|After our long drive over the mountains we knew we were getting close when this giant Tsugaru kokeshi greeted us.|
|The Okuse home and workshop. It wasn't easy to find, so future visitors are forewarned.|
|Some Okuse pieces. Her craftsmanship and family designs are of the highest quality in my opinion.|
|That's the Okuse's kokeshi collection in the back, which was started by the late Mr. Okuse. The five small ones in the front were for sale, but we decided to pass and wait to get an Okuse piece that really stuck out at us.|
|Lena getting to know Ms. Okuse.|
|One of Kuroishi City's manhole covers, located on the street right outside Ms. Okuse's house. One sees unique manhole covers in just about every city, a part of Japan I like, and something you can see only if you look down once in a while.|