Tuesday, January 29, 2013

December 2012 Adventure 4 12月の冒険4

On the final day of our big December kokeshi adventure we got up early, took a final dip in the onsen at our hotel, checked out, and then made our way to the Akiu Craft Park 秋保工芸の里 up the hill from Akiu Onsen 秋保温泉. It's the next valley over from Sakunami, so after a quick drive up and over some small mountains we were at our destination. We came here last year and found that it has a really nice park for the kids, so we brought the sleds and let them play in the snow for a while. I also had the urge to get an Akiu kokeshi 秋保系こけし from the Sato Kokeshi Shop, one of three kokeshi shops at the Craft Park.
Yes, it was cold on the day we were there.
The front of the Sato Kokeshi Shop.
There's a monument listing all of the craftsmen who have shops in the Akiu Craft Park. You can see that it's in Japanese, English, Korean, and Chinese.
Above I mentioned that I wanted to get an Akiu kokeshi, a type we declined to get during our last visit to this area. Astute readers will recall that there are only 11 types of kokeshis, and Akiu is not one of them. At some point they were lumped in with Togatta kokeshis, but Akius used to be considered a distinct kokeshi family back in the old days, and for good reason I think. As you'll see in the pictures below they have some distinct patterns that cannot be misconstrued as any other traditional kokeshi family.
See, the sign says "Akiu Kokeshi." It's not just me.
Some Sato Akiu kokeshis for sale. Unfortunately Mr. Sato was not in the shop when I was there.
Here's my Akiu by Mr. Sato Kazuo. It's about 10 inches, so medium-sized.  Those bold, dark blue stripes and the rectangles for hair say to me "Akiu kokeshi." 
This was a nice feature -- a signature on the back rather than the bottom.
This is the giveaway that it's an Akiu Kokeshi -- the "snake" on the top of the head which is actally the kanji 乙 (otsu). 
Ultimately it probably doesn't matter that Akiu kokeshis have been lumped in with Togattas, but I will personally refer to them as a twelfth family. There aren't too many craftsmen making Akius these days (six according to the Kamei guide), so they're pretty hard to find. As you can see in the photo above  the selection in the shop was fairly limited, though Mr. Sato's son Takenao has taken over the Akiu tradition so there should be Sato family Akiu kokeshis available well into the future. If you're in the Sendai area by all means pay this shop a visit and pick up an Akiu kokeshi!

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