Monday, April 23, 2012

Mystery Kokeshi 神秘的なこけし

Mystery kokeshi.
At this stage of being a kokeshi enthusiast I'm finding there are fewer and fewer suprises and mysteries about kokeshis. This is both a good thing and a, well, not "bad" really, but less good thing. The good side is that we've really improved our knowledge about traditional kokeshis, which has been a triumph of sorts. And when I say "we," I really mean Naoko who can easily recognize all eleven types, their sub-types, where they come from, the craftsman who made it, including sometimes those who have passed away. It's pretty impressive actually. The less good side to our increased knowledge is that we are no longer newbies for whom everything about the world of traditional kokeshis is fresh and exciting, an adventure. In fact we're probably reaching an early stage of maturity as kokeshi fans.
Now I'm certainly not claiming expert knowledge at this point, and while Naoko is well beyond my level, there are enthusiasts in Japan with decades of experience and collections consisting of thousands of kokeshis. They, then could probably help us with our recent kokeshi mystery.
On Sunday, 22 April we attended the monthly Friends of Kokeshi meeting in downtown Tokyo, and as usual came home with a couple of nice kokeshis. The most interesting kokeshi we acquired was this fantastic piece -- an antique from 1984 with a very unique head shape -- of which we aren't sure its type or who made it. Naoko thinks it might be a Togatta based on its body design, but of course Togatta kokeshis typically have a very distinctive head pattern made up of red brush strokes. Not only is the head shape unusual, but so is its face which is striking and funny, and maybe even kind of angry. Anyway, we should be able to find out quickly what kind it is and who made it, but meanwhile it's fun to have a mystery kokeshi to think about.
Believe it or not there are people in Japan who look like this. But what is this kokeshi so mad about?
We know that our mystery kokeshi was made in May 1984. The signature, however, is unknown... for now.
Though not a mystery I did want to show another kokeshi we acquired at the meeting. This is a Yajiro type 弥次郎系 by Mr. Sato Yoshiaki 佐藤慶明さん of Shiroishi City in Miyagi Prefecture, and while I don't normally care for Yajiros (apart from those made by our friends the Satos in Fukushima) I think this piece is quite exceptional, in particular the face, but also the balance of lines, color usage, and hair. A very impressive kokeshi indeed.

This is a nice face, with a Modigliani nose.
Yajiros are easy to spot, especially by the top of the head.

No comments:

Post a Comment