Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Kokeshi Adventure on NHK World NHKワールドのこけし冒険

Hiyane Bookstore. The kokeshis are upstairs.
On July 28th Naoko and I headed down to the Kanda 神田 section of Tokyo. It wasn't for a Friends of Kokeshis meeting, though some of our fellow members were going to join us there. Instead we were heading for a small used bookstore named Hiyane ひやね, the second floor of which is actually a used kokeshi shop! I had no idea, and this in itself was quite interesting. The shop has lots of nice pieces available, but the real reason for the trip was that Naoko, myself, and a few other Kokeshi Friends were going to be interviewed for an NHK World TV show called Tokyo Eye. It was for a good cause really, as NHK World is hoping to promote an interest in the Tohoku region of Japan through showing its connections in Tokyo. Since kokeshis are such an important symbol of Tohoku this was an obvious choice. Tokyo Eye, for those who don't know, is a weekly show made for foreigners who are interested in Japan. The director was hoping to get an interview with a foreigner who has some knowledge about kokeshis, hence my participation in the program. Anyway, this was a kokeshi adventure of a different sort and I think everyone had a great time. I mean really, what wouldn't be fun about sitting around in a room full of kokeshis with fellow enthusiasts, and then talking about kokeshis on TV?
Naoko and I met for lunch beforehand at a small Chinese restaurant with the Tokyo Eye director Mr. Hiro Kay, the camera man and grip who stayed quietly in the background, Mr. Sato and Ms. Santo from Friends of Kokeshis, and the "talent" (as they call the on-air faces here in Japan), an American named Alex whose last name I forget. We chatted about the goal of the day's shoot, had some laughs, and then headed to the bookstore to record footage for the program.
Once there the NHK crew took footage of Alex working his way upstairs and talking to the camera in the style that's popular here in Japan. One thing they like to do on this sort of program is have the talent "discover" the object of the quest while on camera, at which point he or she feigns excitement. It's all rather scripted, but I happen to like it as a technique. Finally Alex and the crew walked into the room where we were standing, on camera of course, and proceeded to ask everyone a question or two about kokeshis such as why are we interested in them, do we think they're cute, and so forth. It was a lot of fun, although I think I might have ruined a shot when I pulled out my camera to take a picture of the camera guys doing an interview. Hiro waved at me not to do it, but it was too late, and I had to get the shot for this blog! Oh well. After Alex interviewed everyone (all in Japanese by the way, except for me), the camera guy took some video of a selection of representative kokeshis that we had picked out for use as B-roll. And that was it.
Coming up the stairs of Hiyane one is greeted by these kokeshis.
Some books and magazines were also available. 
Alex and Hiro discussing what to do next.
Preparing for the next shot.
The director isn't giving me a wave -- he's signalling me not to take pictures while they're recording! ごめんなさい。
An interview with the president of the Friends of Kokeshis Association, Mr. Hashimoto.
By now you might be wondering, what about the show? When is it going to air? Well, it already aired on NHK World on 12 September. However, it's apparently going to be turned into a Japanese-language version and shown on regular NHK, so if I get any information on that I'll make an announcement. Here's a link to the Tokyo Eye web site for information about the program, which I highly recommend if you've never seen it -- really a top-notch show. Tokyo Eye
Anyway, Naoko and I watched it and it was great! We were segment two of three on Tohoku-related topics, and the video was absolutely beautiful. Naoko, who was indeed interviewed, unfortunately did not make the final cut, but they did use part of my interview. Come to think of it, the show hardly used any of our interviews. Perhaps NHK will use that footage for another show sometime in the future? Our 5-minute segment followed an interview with Tokyo-based Kijiyama-style 木地山系 kokeshi craftsman Mr. Ogura Eiji 小椋英二さん whom Naoko and I visited last year at his business in Hachioji City 八王子市 outside of Tokyo. That was nice to see as well.
Alex: "You are kokeshi doll collectors?" Group: "Yes."
I took a couple of stills from directly off my TV set showing scenes from the program, so you can see that it came out really well. Most importantly is that Tokyo Eye showed its global audience about the wonderful tradition of kokeshis, which can only be positive. Hopefully it will encourage visitors to Japan to venture north to Tohoku and see some of the makers for themselves. Overall, this was a different but great kokeshi adventure!
Another still from the program. The guy sitting way in the back owns the kokeshi shop.


  1. Hi John, do you know how much the dolls at this shop range from? Thanks for a great blog!

    1. Hi Elizabeth -- glad you're enjoying the blog. As I recall this shop is actually a bit expensive compared to what you'll find up in Tohoku, but it's conveniently located in Kanda, Tokyo, so that's a definite plus. There are used kokeshis and new ones, but I'm sorry, I do not remember pricing except that they were more expensive than if you bought them directly from a craftsman. But don't let that stop you from at least paying the shop a visit! Happy kokeshing.