Sunday, March 17, 2013

December 2012 Adventure 7 12月の冒険7

While at the Yajiro Kokeshi Village 弥次郎こけし村 in the hills outside of Shiroishi City we visited the workshop of Niiyama Yoshinori 新山吉紀さん and Mayumi 真由美さん, two expert Yajiro craftsmen. We had called the workshop ahead of time, not knowing that we would end up at the Kokeshi Village, so all of this was a nice surprise. On this day Mrs. Niiyama was out, so we spent about an hour with just Mr. Niiyama who gave us a good deal of information on his recent adventure as a kokeshi ambassador in Paris, and about various other kokeshi makers. The Kiboko Workshop 工房きぼこ, as it's called, is a small, cozy, traditional Japanese building located on the grounds of the Kokeshi Village along with other similar workshops.

The workshop.
The front door into the Kiboko Workshop.
As we entered Mr. Niiyama welcomed us and prepared some tea, a kokeshi shop tradition that I really like. Of course the workshop was also the showroom, if we could call it that, and we were greeted by a couple of shelves of the Niiyama's beautiful kokeshis as soon as we entered. Right next to those was their personal kokeshi collection, and I'm always happy to see when kokeshi makers have an interest in the work of other craftsmen. 

The new kokeshis for sale. Lots of variety.
A close up. The Niiyama's craftsmanship is superb as you can see.
Their personal kokeshi collection.
Another view of those kokeshis, which could use a good dusting. Naoko and I liked that rare Nambu kokeshi 南部系こけし, the big white one behind the kokeshi with the rings on its arms.
Naoko and Mr. Niiyama chatted about various things for a while as I took photos of kokeshis and tried to keep an eye on the girls who were still rock climbing and playing in the snow and ice outside. Eventually the girls came in to warm up and Mr. Niiyama had them try some sawdust. What I mean by "try" is that he had them eat some sawdust which the girls did reluctantly. I didn't recall why he had them taste some of the sawdust, but was fascinated by the whole thing. Naoko told me later that he was explaining to the kids that the wood he was using was the same as that used for disposable chopsticks. I must say that Mr. Niiyama is the first kokeshi maker we've met who has offered sawdust for tasting. After that Mr. Niiyama gave a demonstration on the lathe, whipping out a fully completed top in about 2-3 minutes. It was amazing. He took a chunk of raw wood, lathed it down into a top shape, gave it some paint, and handed it to Emily in almost no time at all. 
Sawdust? No thanks.
The girls are trying some special edible sawdust.
Here's Naoko documenting Mr. Niiyama at work on his lathe. He's making a top.
And voila! A top.
Anyway, we came for kokeshis but it was tough to pick out the ones we wanted, but in the end we chose two beautiful traditional Yajiros, one by Yoshinori and one by Mayumi. Naoko also found a small kokeshi with a removeable head that becomes a top. Those are always fun.
Our new kokeshis. I especially like the one with the squarish head in the center by Mrs. Niiyama.
Naoko and Mr. Niiyama upon departing.
Overall, this was really good mini-adventure that topped off a fantastic trip up to Tohoku. It was a great way to develop an appreciation of one of the kokeshi families that I know very little about.

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