Thursday, November 29, 2012

October Friends of Kokeshi Meeting 10月の東京こけし友の会例会

6th Floor: Tokyo Frinds of Kokeshi Meeting. This must be the place!
On October 28th Naoko and I once again hopped on the train to Kanda in downtown Tokyo to join with a large crowd of fellow kokeshi enthusiasts for the monthly Tokyo Friends of Kokeshi meeting. We also brought our 5-year old daughter Emily who already has a definite appreciation for kokeshis despite her tender age. Would she be able to survive a 2-hour meeting among the kokeshi enthusiasts? That was the big question, and as it turned out she was just fine, even producing a very nice drawing of the final buying frenzy (see below). Overall we had a great time, saw our friends, and enjoyed being around kokeshis and with people who care about kokeshis and the craftsmen who make them.
Everyone is milling around the kokeshi table. It was like a wall.
As usual, the photos of the meeting below will speak for themselves, but interestingly (and just like a couple of months ago) a TV reporter was in the room observing us. While I didn't catch her name, she was a reporter from NHK Aomori, and since she took video of the whole event I presume she returned north and put together a story in which we all appeared. I guess the kokeshi lovers of Tokyo are of interest to those who live up in Tohoku!
This young lady was from NHK broadcasting in Aomori Prefecture, a hotbed of kokeshi culture. I think she was sent to observe what the kokeshi nuts in Tokyo were up to, and then report about it on the news. She gathered video throughout the meeting, so all of us were probably shown on the news up there.
This selection was ten each of five different new kokeshis. They were snatched up really quickly.
Here's a close up of the new kokeshis. The helmeted kokeshi on the left is a Tsuchiyu type 土湯系, and I think this design was especially popular with the group. The Naruko kokeshis in the center are, I believe, by Mr. Matsutani Shinkinchi 松谷伸吉さん, a young fellow who actually lives in Shimane Prefecture 島根県. For those of you who don't know, that's in far western Honshu, about as far from Tohoku as one can be in Japan. You don't see his work much, but his faces are some of the most pleasant I've seen on a kokeshi.
Some more new kokeshis off on their own table. These are Tsugaru kokeshis 津軽系こけし by the Okuse 奥瀬 family up in Kuroishi, Aomori, and as you can see they are indeed beautiful. They are also quite pricey -- the big ones say 8,000 yen on the tag.
Ah yes, I forgot to mention this month's gift kokeshis. There were six little Yajiro kokeshis to choose from, all by Mr. Niiyama Minoru 新山実さん of Shiroishi City 白石市 in southern Miyagi Prefecture.
Naoko and I chose these as our gift kokeshis. Very nice indeed.
The pre-buying inspection period. There was a sturdy wall of enthusiasts picking out their favorites, so I had to raise my camera way up and shoot down in order to see what was there.
An oblique view of the prey... er, kokeshis. I think this month's selection was especially good.

I told Naoko that we had to try and get this beauty. It's a Hijiori kokeshi 肘折系 by Mr. Suzuki Sei'ichi 鈴木征一さん. We really need to get up to Yamagata and pay his workshop a visit.
I'm always happy to see Mr. Abe Shin'ya's 阿部進矢さん kokeshis. Alas, this one was snatched up before Naoko's or my number was called.
This time the color system was dispensed with. Instead you paid the price written on the tag on the top of the head.
A view of sale kokeshis through a hole in the crowd. Lots of nice pieces up there.
Another view.
When it was all said and done we got some very nice used kokeshis. Here's a small Abe Shin'ya piece that Naoko picked up.
We got the Hijiori I wanted -- hurray!
Naoko also found this very nice Zao kokeshi 蔵王系 by Ms. Umeki Naomi 梅木直美さん.
Although the Hijiori above was a great find, this wonderful piece was probably even better. It's a beautiful and rare Nambu style kokeshi 南部系 from Iwate Prefecture 岩手県.
For the second half of the meeting we were treated to a couple of slide shows of recent kokeshi events up north.
There was also a very academic talk about a certain kokeshi maker's works. Unfortunately, my Japanese isn't quite at the level where I could follow what he was saying.
And finally...
Emily was really well behaved during the meeting. She also managed to create this hilarous drawing of her interpretation of the kokeshi buying frenzy. If you look closely that's Naoko holding up a kokeshi, while behind her is a mad scramble for the other kokeshis. Not bad for a 5-year old kid!
And with that the Tokyo Friends of Kokeshi meeting for October 2012 was over. It was, as usual, a very nice kokeshi adventure.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

All Japan Kokeshi Festival 2012 part 8 全国こけし祭り 2012 第8

On the morning of September 2nd we checked out of our inn and headed back to the kokeshi festival for a final look around, and to say goodbye to our friends. I took some pictures of some scenes of Naruko along the way since it was decked out with a red and white banner for the kokeshi festival. The town really went all out for the kokeshi enthusiasts who came from all over Japan, and the event did not disappoint.

When we arrived at the parking lot I noticed that there was a Shinto parade going by. They were carrying a mikoshi (portable shrine), and there was even a guy wearing a tengu 天狗 mask (see photo). That was really neat!

Naoko went inside the kokeshi venue while I was taking pictures of the parade, which gave me a chance to visit one of the outside vendors that I had been eyeing. The two photos below show some beautiful handmade kokeshi-inspired goods made by a woodworker in Kunitachi City 国立市 in Tokyo (カガモクKagamoku: Click for the blog). The guy's wife is from Naruko, so he specializes in kokeshi items that evoke that part of Japan. Most of the items for sale were tea and coffee implements, as well as some chopsticks with little kokeshi heads on them. I bought a pair of these for Naoko as a birthday present. Next we'll have to visit the shop as a local kokeshi adventure.

The following photos were taken inside the venue -- there was still lots to see even towards the end of the event.

Below is a photo of a historic photo of the National Kokeshi Festival as it appeared a number of decades ago. While the built environment has changed considerably, the large kokeshis in the parade show that the festival's spirit remains the same today.
And with that we hopped into the car and were on our way back down south to Tokyo via Sendai. As you could see in the eight blog posts it was a great experience. For those of you overseas who are reading this and are thinking of coming to Japan, you might want to plan your trip around the time of the festival and try to attend -- you'll be glad you did!
One last view of a giant welcoming kokeshi on the side of the road. Naoko took this as we were leaving the area.