Sunday, April 29, 2012

Miyagi-Zao Kokeshi Kan みやぎ蔵王こけし館

On April 9th as part of our recent adventure to Sendai we visited the Miyagi-Zao Kokeshi Kan (Museum) which lies along the Matsu River 松川 just across the Togatta kokeshi bridge (see previous blog). The area it's located in is truly beautiful, the facility is handsome, and it's filled with thousands, if not tens of thousands of kokeshis of all types. There's also an enormous gift shop selling local kokeshis and a huge variety of handmade traditional wooden Japanese toys. In other words, the Miyagi-Zao Kokeshi Museum has all the ingredients to be an awesome destination for connoisseurs. So why was I left feeling somewhat disappointed?
The museum building. The day we went the parking lot was completely empty.
I hesitate to be too critical because the fact that this place exists at all is amazing. However, apart from the area one first enters with its nicely spaced kokeshis on a tatami-mat display, the collection generally feels cobbled together without any particular meaning. When I pointed this out to Naoko she said that's exactly what it is -- the museum's collection is made up of basically of what were once private collections, displayed in row after row of glass cases in which kokeshis are crammed without rhyme or reason. Nevertheless there were definitely highlights in the museum that I have described with the photos below. So in the end is this a recommended kokeshi adventure? Absolutely!

In case you weren't sure what's inside the kokeshi kan...
When first entering the building after paying the nominal entry fee (200 yen?) one sees these two pieces of art. The one on the left is an oil painting by Mr. Kaneko Kazu 金子一さん, and the one on the right is a made up of 64 tiles. Both are large scale, and both are spectacular pieces of kokeshi-themed art. 

The kokeshi collection starts here with this accessible display of large-scale kokeshis from throughout Tohoku.
The initial display continued. Really nice.
After the above the displays turn into this. Great if your goal is to just see thousands of kokeshis.
Baskets of small kokeshis on display.
Some nice Abe kokeshis.

The rest area in the back -- very pleasant.
One of the Miyagi-Zao Kokeshi Kan's highlights was a display of traditional kokeshi making equipment. Another room showed the modern crafting process, from choosing wood in the drying yard all the way to a completed kokeshi. Through the use of photos, wood, and tools this was extremely well done.
Traditional kokeshi-making equipment.
The kokeshi making process, explained well in this extremely well-done display.

The final outcome.
A display of kokeshi books.
The Togatta Kokeshi wing. The photos above are of kokeshi craftsmen from the local area.
We met the craftsman on the left, Ms. Sato Ryoko 佐藤良子さん, at her shop in the Kokeshi Village こけしの里 on the hill above the Kokeshi Kan. I'll talk about that in an upcoming blog.
The well-stocked gift shop. You could easily spend hundreds of dollars here and go home with a fantastic collection.
Kokeshi key chains.
Small and large hand-made yo-yos.
Kokeshis by Mr. Sato Tadashi 佐藤忠さん. His were especially handsome, and I really liked the bell-shaped ones in this shop though I didn't get one for some reason.

Lots of kokeshis for sale.
More by Sato Tadashi. I got the black one on the left. I think it's a real beauty.
Kokeshis by Mr. Sakuda Koichi 作田孝一さん. We bought one of his, though it's not in this photo.
What's a kokeshi museum without a giant kokeshi? I love these things.
The Matsu River right in front of the Kokeshi Kan. 

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