Sunday, September 22, 2013

Beware of Fake Kokeshis! 偽物のこけしに気をつけてください

Greetings fellow kokeshi enthusiasts. I am now back in Japan after my big desert adventure with the Togatta kokeshi. It certainly is nice to be home in the land of kokeshis!
Anyway, back in April Naoko, the girls and I had a very nice spring kokeshi adventure up at Naruko Onsen about which I forgot to write about. One thing, though, that needs be discussed immediately is in the pictures below. On the way to Naruko we stopped at the Sano 佐野 highway rest area in Tochigi Prefecture. My children are always drawn to the kids' vending machines as seen in the photo below. For 200 yen these things dispense worthless trinkets in clear plastic spheres, and I always say "no" when asked to buy something.
This time was interesting, though, because there was a traditional kokeshi netsuke 根付 being sold by the major Japanese toy company Takara-Tomy. They weren't really netsuke, a 300-year old Japanese tradition, but rather a cell-phone strap. Still, this was interesting and Naoko and I assumed that the kokeshi artists had been commissioned to do the work.

If you look closely you'll see that there were seven types available. You'll also noticed that they were very stylized "cute" versions of traditional kokeshis with recognizable faces by master craftsmen. They were kind of strange, but why not?
The girls finally got to buy something from one of these vending machines. Hurray!
The kokeshis came out in their very own plastic container. 
We opened up them up to see what they looked like, and they were just like the photo on the machine. One was a Hijiori style 肘折系 kokeshi, and the other was a Nambu style 南部系 kokeshi. And then we noticed where they were made. Not in Japan by a kokeshi craftsman, no. China. While Takara-Tomy undoubtedly made a deal with the kokeshi makers (or at least I hope it did), I was completely appalled. Kokeshis are a Japanese art that is hand made by individual craftsmen, not some faceless Chinese peasant working in a sweatshop with absolutely no connection to the craft of tradition.
Don't be fooled by these smiling faces.
This is the first time I've seen Chinese-made "kokeshis" so I'm not terribly concerned that we're seeing a trend. However, these things are not just an insult -- they show how easy it would be to bring in Chinese-made fakes and sell them as the real thing. I am sorry to have to have shown these things on a blog dedicated to kokeshis and their makers, but I wanted to let all that read this blog to know about this and to be aware. Basically, if you're going to spend your money on kokeshis then buy the real thing!      

No comments:

Post a Comment