Monday, April 16, 2012

Kokeshi Noren こけし暖簾

If you've ever been to Japan then you've seen plenty of norens 暖簾. They are the pieces of cloth, usually split in half or thirds, that restaurant owners hang outside their door to let customers know the shop is open. People also use them inside their homes as a kind of semi-door. In the case of business norens they typically advertise the name of the restaurant, what kind of restaurant it is, or both whereas home norens are much more artistic, or tacky as the case may be. 
One sub-category of the noren world is kokeshi norens, and I can say that it is indeed a sub-category since I've seen so many of them. I guess we kokeshi enthusiasts can't get enough of seeing kokeshis, so a kokeshi noren is yet another way to have kokeshis literally hanging around the house. Take, for example, the noren below. 
We found this one at a souvenir shop during a recent kokeshi adventure in Togatta Onsen 遠刈田温泉 in Miyagi Prefecture 宮城県 (more to come on that trip soon). It's really quite nice, made of heavy, heirloom-quality canvas, with fantastic graphics and bold colors. Frankly, this is probably the nicest kokeshi noren I've yet seen, and all for about 2,700 yen, which was fair. From left to right is a Yamagata type 山形系, a Sakunami type 作並系, and a Zao-Takayu type 蔵王高湯系 -- beautiful. The poem written on the top is a bit silly, but then again so is collecting kokeshis. It says "On a trip when seeing a kokeshi one recalls mother in a far away hometown ..." I have to admit that I've never once thought of my mother when looking at kokeshis, so perhaps you have to be Japanese to have those sorts of thoughts. What I can say with certainty is that I like it, and that it's hanging in our kitchen doorway.

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