Monday, June 25, 2012

Yamadera Kokeshi 山寺こけし

The brown square apparently means "important temple" this way.
Early in October 2011, after our big summer Tohoku adventure and on the heels of the Naruko Kokeshi Festival we took a trip with some friends up to Yamagata, home of Yamagata-type kokeshis 山形系こけし and Zao-type kokeshis 蔵王系こけし. It was a great trip and I should have blogged about it earlier. Why have I waited so long to tell this story?
Apples.
On October 3rd in perfect fall weather we headed up into the mountains beyond Tendo Onsen 天童温泉, through some apple orchards, to a small town called Yamadera 山寺. The village is famous for a mountain temple (or "yama tera"in Japanese, hence the town's name) on the cliffside above the town, and while most travellers probably go there in order to hike up to the temple we had another objective: To visit the kokeshi workshop of Mr. Ishiyama Kazuo 石山和夫さん. Mr. Ishiyama was born in 1929 and has been making kokeshis since 1948! He's of the Zao kokeshi school, which is actually fairly rare, and he paints rape flowers and yellow stripes on some of his kokeshis, which is a unique design. His faces are full of humor. I really love Zao kokeshis, the same kind made by our friend Mr. Mito in Tendo City.
The shop sign.
Mr. Ishiyama's shop, Yamadera Kokeshi, was easy to find. It is small and humble, exactly like what  one would expect an old mountain-village kokeshi shop to look like. Fortunately Mr. Ishiyama was in, so Naoko and our friends went into the shop to talk while I took the girls to play along the icy river that cuts through the town. Naoko really enjoyed this visit.
The pictures below tell the story, but I will say that this short detour was a grade-A kokeshi adventure and that kokeshi enthusiasts need to put Yamadera high on the list of places to visit.
Five of the styles that Mr. Ishiyama makes. All delightful, and amazingly his finished products look just like these drawings.
This shows the variety of Mr. Ishiyama's work. Very fair prices too.
A crowd of kokeshis.
Interior view. You can get a wooden Daruma too, if you'd like.
Lots of Mr. Ishiyama's beautiful kokeshis.
Mr. Ishiyama was convinced that Naoko had visited the shop in the past.
Kokeshi. Look at the price tags -- very reasonable.
This style with the flat head is appealing.
What a face!
There's the famous yama tera (mountain temple) above the kokeshi shop sign.
Mr. Ishiyama, a true kokeshi craftsman.

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