Monday, December 24, 2012

King of Cute カワイイ

Our first Abe Tsunekichi kokeshi. 
As you may have noticed in previous blog posts, Naoko likes kokeshis by the Abe family of Atsumi Onsen 温海温泉 on the Japan Sea in Yamagata Prefecture. Abe kokeshis, which are part of the greater Zao-Takayu 蔵王高湯系 family, do not look like other Zao kokeshis but they are very easy to recognize. They are the ones with the suprised, wideset eyes, and often have a nice half-circle pattern around the neck and chest area. Nobody else does kokeshis like this, so they are truly unique in the kokeshi world.
One of the first traditional kokeshis that we acquired two years ago was a vintage Abe piece (I wrote about that kokeshi in one of my first Kokeshi Adventures blogs), and since that time we've been trying to increase our collection, little by little, though most of them have been used kokeshis. The reason for that is that Abe kokeshis are not easy to find. First of all, Atsumi Onsen is really out of the way compared to other kokeshi towns that we have visited. Secondly, Abe kokeshis are very popular, so Naoko's not the only person collecting them and they're usually snatched up quickly at the Tokyo Kokeshi Friends meetings. Finally, only Mr. Abe Shin'ya 阿部進矢さん is making them. His father Mr. Abe Tsunekichi 阿部常吉さん, the artist who really developed the "Abe Style" passed away in 1992 at the age of 87. Interestingly, our Abe collection is made up chiefly of kokeshis by Tsunekichi. In fact, the following eight are his, the last five of which are a beautiful set of small, 3.5-inch kokeshis that Naoko won in a recent auction. As you'll notice, they all look quite surprised!

Meanwhile, here are our ones by Shin'ya. Naoko's favorite is the last one with the Daruma face, which is really cute. This brings me to the title of today's blog, "King of Cute." The Kokeshi Book by Cochae called Abe Shin'ya and his style the King of カワイイ (kawaii), which means cute, and by God Cochae's right! Ultimately, I think will have to be to drive up to Atsumi Onsen on an upcoming kokeshi adventure and meet the King of Cute in person.

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