Saturday, March 17, 2012

Suzuki Kokeshi at Akiu Craft Park 秋保工芸の里での鈴木こけし

Gangu'an Kokeshiya exterior.
Up in the hills outside of Sendai City is Akiu Craft Park 秋保工芸の里, a complex with Japanese-style buildings in which a number of traditional artisans have workshops. It is one-stop shopping for Sendai-area Japanese crafts, including three kokeshi makers! I'll discuss the Craft Park and two of the kokeshi shops in an upcoming blog, but for this entry I'd like to focus the third kokeshi shop, Gangu'an Kokeshiya 頑愚庵こけし屋 owned by craftsman Mr. Suzuki Akira 鈴木明さん that we visited on 22 December. After arriving at the Craft Park I stayed outside and played with the girls in the snow while Naoko went inside Mr. Suzuki's shop, and after we had had enough of the white stuff we went to see some kokeshis. What a nice, cozy shop! To be honest, it's been my experience that not all kokeshi makers have a keen sense for interior design, but Mr. Suzuki certainly does and and it made milling around and viewing his work that much more of a pleasure. 
Shop interior.
Mr. Suzuki is a third-generation craftsman whose main kokeshi is a branch of the Sakunami family called Enakichi 胞吉, and apparently he's the only person in Japan who makes them. Enakichi is a really a nice, pleasing kokeshi design with a baseball-bat shaped body and smooth, clean lines. I noticed that these and many other kokeshis in the shop were painted just using black and red, which is a rare color combination in the kokeshi world. Besides those there were lots of things to see, including tiny kokeshis, kokeshi magnets, Darumas, and a series of what can only be called modern-style traditional kokeshis. Take a look at the photos below and see if you agree.
The Akiu Craft Park is highly recommended, and if you go be sure to spend some time in Gangu'an Kokeshiya! 

Mr. Suzuki's signature traditional kokeshi, which is branch of the Sakunami type called Enakichi kokeshis which his father also made.
Various sizes available. We bought a medium-sized one.
A broader version of the above. 10,000 yen... yikes! But that's because it's made out of Zelkova (Japanese: Keyaki 槻) wood, which is apprently pretty expensive stuff. But as you can this is beautiful kokeshi craftsmanship and is worth every penny (oops -- yen).
Mr. Suzuki's workshop is located inside the shop, and it's easy to watch him work his magic on the lathe.
These are tiny kokeshis, maybe about one inch high. For these Mr. Suzuki likes black and red, which I've never seen on a kokeshi before. 
More small kokeshis. Despite the variety notice how Mr. Suzuki still manages to ensure that the faces are his style.
Three sizes of kokeshis.
Mr. Suzuki drying a kokeshi that daughter Lena made.
Mini ejiko kokeshis.
There's a do-it-yourself kokeshi corner in the shop. and these are the instructions (read from right to left to left of course).  
Some of Mr. Suzuki's kokeshis definitely blur the line between traditional and modern.
Chubby happiness kokeshis. Well, the kanji says "happiness," so I presume these are "happiness kokeshis." Again, notice how consistent Mr. Suzuki is with his faces.
Lucky Cat kokeshis, right? Are these kokeshis?
These are definitely traditional kokeshis, and yet the faces are something new.
Kokeshi purists probably don't know what to make of this sort of design, but I think it's pretty cool! 
These jolly little guys are Kintaro 金太郎 kokeshis. Also, note the plate in the background. That's Mr. Suzuki's graphic kokeshi design which I found very appealing.
Pair kokeshis, or Hina kokeshis? We're not sure.
Little tops and a wooden container.
Holders for toothpick and pens.
Kokeshi chopstick holders -- really creative.
Kokeshi-faced magnets.


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