Wednesday, August 8, 2012

New Kokeshi Book 新しいこけしの本

At this point I thought I'd take a quick break from our great summer kokeshi adventure and mention a new kokeshi book that I have found to be absolutely fantastic: 武井武雄のこけし (my translation is The Kokeshis of Takei Takeo) by kokeshi uber-enthusiast and supporter Cochae. It came out in February 2012 and is about the Japanese artist Mr. Takei Takeo who was an illustrator, a bookmaker, a poet, a children's book author and artist, and even a woodblock print-maker. At some point in the 1920s he began to develop a deep interest in traditional kokeshis as both a subject for art and design motifs, as well as objects for collecting. Apparently, like so many of us, he was smitten by those little wooden dolls. Over his fruitful career Mr. Takei produced a large body of woodblock prints of kokeshis, and its these prints that make up the bulk of the book. What's pleasing to me is that over the last year or so I had seen his work here and there and was very impressed, but had no idea whose art it was. Therefore, this book was especially timely for me.
The Kokeshis of Takei Takeo is 2,200 yen and worth every penny. I found it in a local bookstore, but it's available at Amazon Japan and elsewhere on line in Japan, and may also be available overseas. Of course it's in Japanese, but my dear fellow foreigners, do not let that scare you away. Like the kokeshis themselves these beautiful prints will speak to you, so it's not essential to be able to read Japanese to appreciate this work. Overall Cochae has done a great job with this book, and hopefully we'll see more like it about the world of kokeshi art. Also nice would be an English-language version. Maybe some day...
I took a few photos of the book below, and there are more at the Cochae web site:

Some of Mr. Takei's earliest kokeshi art.

Cochae included a full reproduction of this small 1946 booklet by Mr. Takei as an insert. It was done in English for the American occupation forces, but only 300 were made and all were immediately snatched up by Japanese kokeshi enthusiasts. It's now an extremely valuable book -- I saw one for sale on line for more than 50,000 yen!
Cochae seems to have reproduced the booklet exactly as the original. This alone probably makes it worth the price of the book.
A photo of one of Mr. Takei's kokeshi art books.

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