Wednesday, November 9, 2011

National Kokeshi Festival Part 7 全国こけし祭りパート7

I've probably overdone our Naruko trip over the last six blogs, but we saw so much kokeshi goodness during this adventure that I've felt compelled to share it all. Now this blog -- which will be the last about Naruko (at least until we return in the future) -- is not really about the festival at all. Here's what happened. We left the festival in the afternoon and headed up past the ski resort and Kakizawa Kokeshi until we arrived at a small crater lake called Katanuma 潟沼. This was the real thing -- sulfur smell and milky blue in color -- reminding us that we were probably sitting on top of a giant volcano. There we met a fellow American who told us about a geyser further into the mountains. A geyser? Really? My interest was piqued, so we went to see it and sure enough there was a geyser which about every eight minutes or so shot hot water about 30-40 feet into the air, and when the wind blew just right we were hit with hot mist. True. While not exactly in the same league as Old Faithful, it was still pretty cool.
Sign for the Naruko Kokeshi Museum. We didn't get to go, but maybe next time.
Meanwhile dear kokeshi fans, as we were driving to the geyser we saw a sign for a kokeshi museum. I have to admit that we had seen so many kokeshis by this point that our interest in seeing thousands more was pretty low, so we settled for taking a picture of the sign. As we drove down the hill, however, two giant Naruko kokeshis beckoned us to stop at the Iwashita Kokeshi Shiryokan 岩下こけし資料館, a sort of museum/large gift shop. What the heck I thought, since I needed a can of coffee and it was a good chance for a restroom break. Well, I'm glad we stopped because the place was fantastic. In fact if we hadn't just spent two days of non-stop kokeshi-ing (can I say that?) Iwashita would have been a major highlight.

One of Iwashita's two mega-kokeshis. You can't miss it if driving on Route 47.

The museum part is basically a one-room display area covering origins, tools (you'd be surprised at the complexity of the a kokeshi-makers tools), a map showing where kokeshis come from, and so forth. There was even a foot-powered lathe on display. I think the tool part was the best, while the all-Tohoku kokeshi display looked like it had been completely knocked over during the earthquake in March. Why haven't they been put back up where they belong? Meanwhile, back in the display area was Ms. Yusa Taeko 遊佐妙子さん painting a number of her Naruko kokeshis. I did not get to talk to her, but according to Iwashita's web site there are a number of associated artisans who regularly show up and demonstrate kokeshi making.

Welcome signs with kokeshi art.

Ms. Yusa Taeko painting some of her kokeshis. Note her T-shirt -- that's a kokeshi mascot. 
Christmas kokeshis. I know these would be really popular in America.
The kokeshi display has seen better days. I would guess they were sitting on those shelves until March 11th, 2011.
An interactive display where one presses a button beneath a kokeshi to find its location of origin on the map.
In the gift shop. Everything in here is kokeshi-related.
Kokeshi lucky cats 招き猫. Very creative. I also liked the cone shaped kokeshi in the back.
Boxed kokeshi snacks of various sorts such as senbei and cookies.
Kokeshi alcohol.
Inside the display area.
A foot-powered lathe.
Some kokeshi-making tools. Naoko has learned that the artisans have to make their own tools.
More tools for crafting kokeshis.
Chopstick and kokeshi boxed sets. Well, why not?
Of course there were plenty of Naruko kokeshis for sale.
If there was ever at time I believed that kokeshis did not need their own mascot character, I was wrong. 
These were either drink stirrers or ear picks. I can't remember which.
Kokeshi spoons.
Iwashita's other mega-kokeshi. The sun finally came out right before I took this shot.
A whole mess of kokeshi cell phone straps.
Overall, I highly recommended a visit to Iwashita Kokeshi Shiryokan if you're ever in Naruko. Here is a link (in Japanese) to Iwashita for more information:
Another kokeshi adventure completed.

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