Sunday, March 4, 2012

Traditional Arts Exhibition in Sendai 伝統工芸逸品展in仙台市

Everything came together splendidly on our Sakunami-Sendai kokeshi adventure back in December 2011. Good onsens, good food, friendly people, and lots and lots of kokeshis. Rather serendipitously, right around the corner from our hotel in downtown Sendai was a traditional arts exhibition featuring the handicrafts of Tohoku (plus Niigata Prefecture, which for some inexplicable reason is not considered part of Tohoku). There were all sorts of amazing handmade items on display and for sale, but of course we went for the kokeshis. Sendai, you should know, is a true kokeshi town, and in the old days there was actually such a thing as a Sendai-style kokeshi 仙台系こけし. How and when Sendai kokeshis were reclassified is not entirely clear to Naoko and me (this calls for an investigation!), but there are still fairly large numbers of kokeshi makers who reside in and around Sendai City.
Downtown Sendai. The exhibition took place in the building on the left.

When we went to the exhibition there was one kokeshi craftsman -- 32-year old Mr. Sato Yasuhiro 佐藤康広さん from Sendai -- on hand demonstrating his craft on portable lathe in the exhibition hall. Unfortunately, photography wasn't allowed in that area so I can't show him working. His father Mr. Sato Masahiro was scheduled to show up after we left. The younger Sato was making small tops when we got there, and then we saw him back in the sales area which had a wonderful selection of his, his father's and other kokeshis from Sendai and nearby Naruko Onsen. Mr. Sato is a fairly young kokeshi craftsman who makes Togatta style kokeshis 遠刈田系, and he was delighted to hear that our daughters actually play with the kokeshis in our collection as dolls. This is apparently pretty rare, as most kokeshis sold to enthusiasts are destined for high places out of the reach of grubby little hands. I also had the chance to chat a bit with a gentleman (whose name I've forgotten) from a kokeshi enthusiasts' group in Akita Prefecture similar to the Tokyo Kokeshi Tomo no Kai.    
Exhibition sign.
Naoko chatting with Mr. Sato whose kokeshis can be seen on the center right.
This sign says "Miyagi Traditional Kokeshi" and was sponsored by the Miyagi Traditional Kokeshi Mutual Aid Association.
Mr. Sato's kokeshis and tops.
Some Naruko kokeshis. Naruko Onsen 鳴子温泉 is also a major kokeshi mecca in Miyagi Prefecture, and Naruko craftsman Mr. Okazaki Seiichi 岡崎斉一さん was also at the exhibition.
A display of Naruko-style nesting dolls.

The kokeshis in the front are hollow and would be perfect for chopsticks or pens.
Hina kokeshis for Girls Day (Hina Masturi).
Close up of Mr. Sato's kokeshis. From what I can tell Sendai kokeshi makers seem to prefer using white wood.
As you can see this was a really nice event of the sort that one can only find in Japan. Even without the kokeshis it would have been well-worth attending, but of course seeing the kokeshis made it that much better. A kokeshi adventure? I think so.

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