Sunday, November 25, 2012

All Japan Kokeshi Festival 2012 part 6 全国こけし祭り 2012 第6

After our visit up the mountain above Naruko Onsen we decided to pay a visit to the Japan Kokeshi Museum 日本こけし館, located just a few minutes from Naruko. We didn't go last year since I think we had already had seen too many kokeshis by that point (yes, that is actually possible), but there was a charity kokeshi auction going on there so we decided to see what it was about.
We've been to a few other kokeshi museums in Tohoku and this one was really no different. It had the usual vast kokeshi collection, a gift shop, a hands-on area, a local craftsman's corner, and historical exhibits. Overall, it's a pretty interesting place and highly recommended if you're in the Naruko area. Out front there is a giant Naruko kokeshi in front of the main building, and there was also a small Shinto shrine for the kokeshi makers which was pretty interesting.

Giant kokeshi with a 9-year old child for size reference.
Kokeshi Shinto shrine.
Inside the shrine.
Entrance to the museum.
The main hall. It was pretty busy when we were visiting.
A local craftsman at work -- I didn't catch his name.
This is a hand powered lathe, as opposed to a foot-powered one. There was a color video running showing an old lady pulling back and forth on those rings while her husband worked the wood. This was a real surprise, and it showed what a rough life the kokeshi makers used to have.
The hands-on area.
The gift shop. For some reason they wouldn't let me take any pictures inside. Oh well.
A small part of the kokeshi collection.
Another view.
More kokeshis.
As I mentioned above the real reason we went to the Japan Kokeshi Musuem was to see the charity auction. I'm not sure what the charity was for, but I can say how the system worked. There were hundreds and hundreds of used kokeshis in the viewing room, all of which were wrapped in plastic and tended to be in nice condition. Each kokeshi had a number, and if you found one you liked you filled out a form with your name and address with the number and said what you would be willing to pay for it. Once the viewing was over the slips of paper were gathered, and whoever had offered the highest amount for a particular kokeshi was the winner. The charity officials presumably notified people throughout Japan about their win, cash was exchanged, and the kokeshis were sent out (Naoko won some small Yamagata-style 山形系 kokeshis by Mr. Abe Shin'ya 阿部進矢さん). The way the kokeshis were laid out was really an amazing spectacle, and overall this was a good opportunity to pick up rare and unusual kokeshis for a good price. Plus, it aided a charity!
For those of you who don't read Japanese the sign says in my awkward translation "Second Revival Charity Auction Bargain Sale Floor".
Some nice Abe-family kokeshis. The event was so overwhelming that we didn't bid on them.
A ground-level view of some of the kokeshis. It was a tatami room, so we had to take off our shoes.
Another view.
Small kokeshis and Darumas. Naoko successfully bid on some of these.
A close-up view of a few of the kokeshis.
Naoko and the girls being mesmerized by the charity kokeshis. 
Yet another view.
After spending about an hour at the museum we went outside and enjoyed the grounds and the view from the hilltop on which the museums sits. We were having perfect, late summer weather as you can see in the photos below. After that we drove back to the hotel past some closed kokeshi shops in order to get ready for the big kokeshi Festival parade to be held later in the evening. I'll discuss that amazing event in the next blog.
The view of the valley from the museum grounds.
The sign for Japan Kokeshi Museum. 
A closed kokeshi shop.
Another closed kokeshi shop.
One of the signs on the main road through Naruko, letting drivers know they're in kokeshi land.

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