Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Kokeshi Poster!

Two years ago we attended the National Kokeshi Festival 全国こけし祭り in Naruko Onsen and it was, of course, fantastic. That year Cochae, a publisher of stylish kokeshi books and materials, made the festival poster and we managed to get a couple. I like graphic design in general, and I think Cochae did a beautiful job with it to the degree that it could be framed and hung as art. Not all kokeshi event posters are as pleasing to the eye by the way -- this one is definitely unique. Anyway, I had been wanting to frame it for the last two years, and we finally got around to getting it done a couple weeks ago. It wasn't cheap to do, but I think the poster looks great over our sofa in the living room. Here's a picture.
I guess this poster would fall under the category of kokeshi art, something I always enjoy looking at. Overall, I'm quite pleased with this framing project.

On an unrelated topic I wanted to mention to fellow kokeshi enthusiasts outside of Japan that we're seeing more and more traditional kokeshis in the media, including TV. The other day a cartoon was on NHK (not sure what the show's name is) and in a scene when the little boy was talking with his mother there was a kokeshi in the background. I took a couple of screenshots that came out well so you can see what I'm talking about. Again, kokeshi sightings like this have become increasingly common, and Naoko, the girls and I are often yelling "kokeshi!" when we see one show up on the screen. Are traditional kokeshis mainstream these days? Maybe so.
Do  you see the kokeshi?
Hey, it's a kokeshi!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Michinoku Kokeshi Festival: Day 2 みちのくこけし祭: 二日目

On Sunday, October 6th we returned to the Nana Beans building in downtown Yamagata for the second and final day of the Michinoku Kokeshi Festival. Since we had already spent a couple hours there we didn't stay for too long, but it was nice to see our friends and again the new pieces that had been put out. To top it all off, our older daughter Lena won a beautiful kokeshi when she spun the lucky wheel (not sure what it's called -- a Japanese tradition where a colored ball drops out of a hexagonal wheel). Anyway, here are a few pictures to show what we saw the second day.

A sign for the festival at the entrance to the building.
The gift shop on the first floor of Nana Beans that says traditional kokeshis. It's highly recommended on a normal day, but I can't believe they were selling many kokeshis during the festival. 
The shop sign. That's a kokeshi.
A nice display showing the different traditional kokeshi families and where in Tohoku they come from.
On day two was this selection of small kokeshis, which the kokeshi makers have found to be very popular with young female collectors.

Another view of the floor, which had been completely restocked.
A beautiful 木地山系こけし Kijiyama kokeshi.
Emily trying out the lucky wheel. No prizes unfortunately.
Lena with her newly won kokeshi.
We looked around a bit more and then decided to say farewell. After that we spent a few more hours in beautiful Yamagata City, which is well worth a visit any time of the year (it's become one of my favorite cities in Japan). Overall, the 2013 Michinoku Kokeshi Festival was a great event, especially the joint craftsmen-enthusiasts banquet. If you have a chance, by all means go in 2014, 2015 or beyond. You'll be glad you did. 

And with that we completed another fun kokeshi adventure.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Michinoku Kokeshi Festival Banquet みちのくこけし祭の宴会

On the evening of 5 October the Tokyo Friends of Kokeshis Association 東京こけし友の会 held a banquet for a number of kokeshi makers along with enthusiasts from Tokyo, Yamagata, and elsewhere. It was held in the Yamagata Washington Hotel in downtown Yamagata City where everyone was staying, located across the street from the Nana Beans Building where the Kokeshi Festival was being held. Naoko, the girls and I also attended, and I'll sum it up by saying that a great time was had by all! The amount of food that kept coming to the table seemed endless, and for those who drank alcohol there was a constant flow of beer and sake, helped along by my two sweet young daughters who walked around the room ensuring that everyone's glasses were full. Of course it wouldn't have been a kokeshi party without kokeshis, and all those in attendance received a number and then got a complimentary kokeshi, many created by the very craftsmen sitting in the room with us. It was really a great night and I can't recommend enough attending this event next year.
The entrance to the Yamagata Washington Hotel.
Across the street from the Washington Hotel (the brick red building in the background) is this really nice area that has taken advantage of one of the cities old waterways. The traditional-looking black building has a number of really nice shops selling traditional Japanese and Yamagata-made goods, though I didn't see any kokeshis.
A room full of kokeshi makers and kokeshi fans. A good combination.
A few speeches were made before dinner. Notice the table to the right of the gentleman standing. Those are the gift kokeshis that everyone received.
Some appetizers. 
A special Yamagata-style hot pot. Delicious. 
Naoko's new kokeshi. 
Lena's new kokeshis. 
Emily pouring a beer for Mr. Onuma Hideaki 大沼秀顯さん, a kokeshi maker from Naruko Onsen.
Naoko with Ms. Umeki Naomi 梅木直美さん, a kokeshi craftsman from Yamagata. 
Kokeshi sake, of course. 
So, that was the big festival banquet and it was great and in the next blog I'll talk a bit about day two of the festival.

Michinoku Kokeshi Festival Award Winners みちのくこけし祭の受賞作品

Award winners were along the back wall.
An important part of the Michinoku Kokeshi Festival is the awards competition for traditional kokeshis. There are actually a large number of awards given, from the Japanese prime minister and Tohoku governors, to various newspaper and TV companies, to regional agencies. I do not know how the award system works, but I can say that all of the award-winning kokeshis were handsome pieces as you'll see below. In order to get these photos posted I'm not going to translate the awards or transliterate the makers' names, so if there is something you are curious about please contact me directly.

Besides kokeshis there was also a small section of award-winning wooden toys. While I didn't take pictures of all of them, there were some really terrific pieces on display. Like kokeshis it's an old handicraft, yet shows a great deal of creativity. I would also say that while these toys are "traditional"in terms of painting styles and woodworking techniques they feel quite modern to me.