Saturday, March 3, 2012

Kamei Art Museum in Sendai 仙台のカメイ美術館

The book.
Last 19-22 December Naoko, the girls and I went on an early winter kokeshi adventure to Sakunami Onsen 作並温泉, Akiu Onsen 秋保温泉, and Sendai City 仙台市, about a five-hour drive via the Tohoku Expressway from our home in western Tokyo. I'll explain the trip over the next couple of blogs, but I thought I'd start with our visit to downtown Sendai's Kamei Art Museum カメイ美術館 which has a wing devoted to kokeshis. What makes this particular collection of interest is that while we were visiting there was a collection of brand new representative kokeshis from every kokeshi maker in Japan. The reason for this is that Kamei has produced a handbook called the Traditional Kokeshi Artist File 伝統こけし最新工人緑 which contains photos and background information on all of Japan's traditional kokeshi makers. The book also includes pictures of two of everyone's kokeshis, which are the ones that were on display in the Kamei museum. A pretty good deal for both the museum and craftsmen, and I'll discuss this beautiful, though expensive (2,500 yen) little book in a future blog. Even though it is 100% in Japanese, I highly, highly recommend this book for all traditional  kokeshi enthusiasts.
Should we go right? Or left? Left!
Anyway, Naoko wanted to go the museum to get the newest edition of the handbook that had just come out in late November, so our timing was perfect. The book isn't all that easy to get a hold of even in Japan, so going right to the source ensured that we would get a copy. Fortunately part of new kokeshi collection was on display, and I took a few pictures of them which are posted below. According to the Kamei web site, we only saw the first display, which was followed by two more shows in the months after we left. That's a lot of kokeshis! For more information on the Kamei Art Museum and its kokeshi projects here's a link to the web site (Japanese):

Kokeshis by our friends the Satos from Iwaki, Fukushima.

While we were definitely in a museum (which has an amazing butterfly collection, as well as a paintings on a different floor), the kokeshi wing was also something of a research room that contained a very nice library of kokeshi books and a table for reading. There was also a little gift shop with kokeshi goods (mostly from Kokeshika, a kokeshi/matryoshika shop in Kamakura) and small selection of books. We were happy to find a rather rare, scholarly kokeshi book from 1980 on the Sendai kokeshi tradition -- Naoko's been very pleased with it. By the way, the museum staff was extremely pleasant and helpful. By all means check out Kamei the next time you're in Sendai. 
The pinkish room in the back is the kokeshi wing. You can see Naoko conducting some kokeshi research at the reading table.
The library.
Kokeshi goods.
Also in the kokeshi area were a couple of pieces of kokeshi art. I've really come to like this kokeshi-related artistic tradition which goes way back, though how far back is not entirely clear to me - maybe the 1920s? Here's a photo of one of the pieces. I need to learn more about this.


  1. I love your Kokeshi blog! My favorite artists are Mito Hiroshi and Santo Sanzo.

    Thanks for writting about this dolls.


  2. We are bringing around 33students from Malaysia to visit this place on 24Nov2015 together with Japnese interpreter.How much the entrance fee?Any special activity for those student ? As a good memory for them to bring back,any thing be suggested?

    1. TZM Travel -- Thank you for your message. We have contacted Kamei Museum and they will be happy to have your group visit. I shall send you a contact email soon. -- John

    2. TZM Travel -- Following up on my reply above, please contact Ms Yumiko Aono who is a curator at the Kamei Museum. You can reach her directly at the following email:
      Good luck with your trip to Sendai, and please let me know if you need further assistance.