Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Kokeshi Set

A while ago (maybe late last year) Naoko received a very nice set of twelve used traditional kokeshis from someone who no longer wanted them. Back when they were originally purchased they were presumably very expensive, and each came in box that included a pamphlet about the kokeshi and its craftsman. I'm not sure how old this collection is -- maybe the 1990s -- and it was the creation of Sony Family Club. The Sony? Maybe. Anyway, it's pretty interesting to see a premium set like this, which includes some beautiful pieces all by different craftsmen. Since Naoko and I started collecting kokeshis I have not seen anything like this for sale, but with the on-going kokeshi boom it probably won't be long before it happens again. I have no idea how or why the craftsmen and kokeshi styles were chosen for this project, and it's odd that it's not a collection of each kokeshi type. Rather, it's something of a hodge podge, but that's not a criticism. But where's the Nambu kokeshi? Or the Hijiori? Anyway, I'm sure this was a great opportunity for enthusiasts who weren't able to make the trip up north to the kokeshi homeland.
I know that this is hardly a kokeshi adventure, but it is part of the kokeshi heritage so I had to tell you all about it.
A selection of the boxes which, loosely translated, say from top right to left: A Skilled Artisan's Article of Rare Beauty, "Traditional Kokeshi" Traveller's Journal, 12-Month Buying Club. The white rectangle tells the prefecture, type of kokeshi, and the artisan's name.
The unboxing! Each box included a kokeshi (of course), a pamphlet about the kokeshi, and directions on how to take care of the kokeshi.
A close up of the pamphlet. It's obvious that a lot of effort went into the pamphlets, which are a nice bit of kokeshi ephemera.
Here's a Togatta kokeshi 遠刈田系 by Mr. Asakura Koyo 朝倉光洋さん of Sendai. Mr. Asakura is still making kokeshis today.
This is a Naruko kokeshi by? I don't have the box for this one, and I can't read the signature on the bottom. Very nice though.
This is a Sakunami kokeshi 作並系こけし by Mr. Hayasaka Denkichi 早坂伝吉さん. He is not listed in the Traditional Kokeshi Artist File handbook, so he has either retired or has passed away.
A very handsome Yamagata kokeshi by Mr. Abe Masayoshi of Yamagata City. He's still making kokeshis and from what I can tell continues to make this particular design.
A Yajiro kokeshi 弥次郎系こけし by Mr. Niiyama Yoshinori 新山吉紀さん of Shiroishi City 白石市 in southern Miyagi Prefecture.  He's still young, alive, and well and making kokeshis. We have one of Mr. Niiyama's pieces, but it's a completely different style than this one. 
This one's a Zao kokeshi 蔵王系こけし by Mr. Okazaki Ikuo 岡崎幾雄さん of Zao Onsen in the mountains overlooking Yamagata City. We were just at his shop a few months ago, though we didn't get to meet him. It's interesting to see this design since Mr. Okazaki's kokeshis today look completely different, apart from the face.
A Naruko kokeshi by Mr. Sakurai Shoji 桜井昭二さん who is still making kokeshis today.
A handsome Yamagata kokeshi 山形系こけし by Mr. Kobayashi Kiyoshi 小林清さん of Yamagata City.
Obviously a Tsugaru kokeshi津軽系こけし by Mr. Sato Yoshiki 佐藤佳樹さん of Kuroishi City in Aomori Prefecture. He's still making kokeshis, though he's moved on from this design.
A beautiful Tsuchiyu kokeshi by Mr. Jinnohara Yukinori of Tsuchiyu Onsen in Fukushima Prefecture. In the summer of 2011 we ate tempura at his restaurant in the center of town.
A Kijiyama kokeshi 木地山系こけし by Mr. Kitayama Ken'ichi 北山賢一さん of Akita Prefecture. I've never seen a Kijiyama with this pattern before.
A fine Yajiro kokeshi 弥次郎系こけし by none other than Mr. Sato Seiko 佐藤誠孝さん whom we got to know last year at his temporary home on the side of a dormant volcano in Gunma Prefecture.

Ok, I kind of lied about not ever seeing of sets of kokeshis. About two weeks ago Naoko received an ad postcard for a special collection of seven exotic traditional kokeshis in a beautiful silk-lined box. The seven kokeshis have traditional heads and faces by some real masters (two of whom participated in the Sony set above), but take a look at the bodies! I'm not sure I like these too much, but I'll bet these will be snatched up quickly by some serious collectors. 

Here's the postcard, stuck to the fridge with two kokeshi magnets by Mrs. Honma Naoko.
A close up view of the collection.


  1. Hi John, Love your blog!
    FYI - there are some dolls from this set currently for sale on ebay - in particular the nambu one you were looking for - check out item number 221401707747.