Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tsugaru Kokeshi Kan 2 津軽こけし館2

Up to the second floor where the collection is located.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote part one of my discussion of the Tsugaru Kokeshi Kan in Kuroishi City, focusing on the first floor with its sales area and workshop. This time I'm taking you upstairs to see the kokeshis. Because the pictures should speak for themselves I'll limit the text, but as you'll see it houses an amazing collection of all types and sizes of traditional kokeshis with an understandable emphasis on ones from Tsugaru. Naturally every serious kokeshi enthusiast should try to get here at some point, but non-Japanese speakers should beware that there is very little English signage anywhere in the museum. But that is hardly a reason to not visit the Kokeshi Kan. Enjoy this grade-A kokeshi adventure!

This display was a nice introduction to the traditional kokeshi types.
A display on the history of Tsugaru kokeshis.
A splendid -- yes, splendid -- collection of Tsugarus.
More Tsugaru kokeshis.

During the 1990s there was a famous pair of 100-year old twin sisters in Japan named Kin-san (Gold) and Gin-san (Silver). At some point in the early 1990s these metal kokeshis were made to represent them.
Lots and lots and lots of kokeshis.
Naoko enjoying the collection.
These Abe family kokeshis (Zao type 蔵王系) in the middle (the ones with the big, wide-set eyes) have become a favorite with Naoko of late.  There's only one person left making this style -- 74-year old Mr. Abe Shinya 阿部進矢さん located at Atsumi Onsen あつみ温泉 on the Japan Sea coast of Yamagata Prefecture. Sounds like a future kokeshi adventure awaits us!
Another Abe kokeshi.
I especially like the kokeshi dressed in the kids clothes on the right. Oops. That's my kid.
Tsugaru kokeshi craftsman Mr. Mori Hidetaro 盛秀太郎さん hard at work. Mr. Mori was the creator of the original Tsugaru kokeshi.
Wait! He's not real! A fantastic life-size diorama located on the second floor in honor of the old master. 

Notes and lyrics for a song about Mr. Mori. It's pretty clear that he's a hero around these parts.
Giant Tsugaru kokeshis. Thank goodness for the ropes -- these things can be quite vicious.
A nice print of the late originator of the Tsugaru kokeshi tradition, Mr. Mori Hidetaro, also seen in the diorama above.


  1. Hi,thank you for sharing your Kokeshi adventures. I was reading this entry & managed to confuse myself, something that seems to happen often these days. I wondered if you could clarify. Mr. Mori Shutaro is referred to as the "Founder" of the Tsugaru Kokeshi Strain, however I took a peek at the Kokeshi link posted to the museum and found the diorama image of him in his workshop, which listed the founders' name as Sheng Hidetaro. ( Granted I do not read Japanese and used google translator. But, A book called "An invitation to Kokeshi show both names as different individuals and is the reason for my confusion. Any light you can shed would be great, since information on Kokeshi is often scarce to find particularly in English form. Thank you - Brossia

    1. Hello and thank you for your comment. Mr. Mori Shutaro is definitely the founder of his branch of Tsugaru kokeshis, and today there are three kokeshi makers who are directly descended from his line. Mori kokeshis with the big smiley faces really are the symbol of the Tsugaru kokeshi world, but you as you may be aware there are other kinds of Tsugarus that look nothing like the Mori kokeshis, notably the primitive Owani-style Tsugaru kokeshis. By the way, I tested Mori Shutaro's name (kanji) in Google Translate and also got "Sheng Hidetaro," which is of course incorrect. It's been my experience that Google Translate is really on good for individual words and simple expressions. As for names even native speakers sometimes get confused, and Google Translate is generally hopeless. For this blog I go directly to Japanese-language kokeshi-craftsmen handbooks in order to get the proper readings, after which my Japanese wife looks over what I've written, so you can be certain that the transliterations I've provided are correct.
      By the way, thank you for alerting me to An Invitation to Kokeshi Dolls, a book I was unaware of.
      Sincerely, John

  2. Hi John, thank you for clarifying. The different variety of Kokeshi is often hard to obtain in the states since there are few online shops to buy from. Often sites like ebay do not offer complete details on the ones they sell. I have many on my Kokeshi in the "unknown" artist list which I go over religiously when I find defined artist signatures to compare them to. Although I have quite a few Kokeshi books, it doesn't always prove helpful when translators provide conflicting translations. The book an Invitation to Kokeshi is quite good particularly since it was written in English. It is hard to come by since it has been out of print for some time, but perhaps you will come across it in one of your many adventures. -Best Regards Maddy

    1. Maddy, after I replied to you I spoke with my wife about the pronunciation of Mr. Mori's first name and she thought it was indeed Hidetaro. I double-checked with the book Traditional Crafts: Tohoku Kokeshi 伝統工芸 東北のこけし (a book from 2008 that lists all the kokeshi makers and provides readings for their names), and sure enough his name is pronouced Hidetaro. So, I despite my confident response to you above, I was wrong. My apologies, but I am really glad you caught that error! I went ahead and updated the above, so hopefully that will end that confusion. Thank you very much.
      Best, John

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  4. John, thank you for the follow up, no problem at all. I'm so glad it has been cleared up, certainly an end to my confusion. Best Regards -Maddy