Friday, December 20, 2013

Kokeshi Birthday Party こけしのバースデーパーティー

Everyone was focusing on the kokeshis.
Last week we had a birthday party for my younger daughter Emily, and our main activity for the eight girls who came over was to have them make their own kokeshis! This actually worked out extremely well, and was easy to do. First, Naoko ordered eight blank kokeshis from the Tsugaru Kokeshi Kan 津軽こけし館 in Aomori Prefecture, which arrived the next day via Kuroneko delivery. Rather than using paint we put out pencils and and thin-tipped markers of various colors and types. Finally, for inspiration we placed some traditional and modern kokeshis on the table where the girls were working. After that they were on their own, and as you'll see in the pictures below the girls were focused and engaged. Overall, they created lots of nice faces and designs, although we ran out of time when the parents started showing up. Hopefully everyone finished their kokeshis at home.

Lena teaching one of the guests the art of kokeshi making. 

Is this kid an upcoming kokeshi master?

Some kokeshis for inspiration.
Emily's kokeshi. She's obviously done this before.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Christmas Kokeshis 2013 クリスマスのこけし2013年

Christmas is quickly approaching, so the other day Naoko pulled out our collection of Christmas kokeshis. I must say that traditional kokeshis in general are surprisingly appropriate during the holiday season. I'm not sure why that is; perhaps because the colors are often red and green? Regardless, we have found that the smaller ones also make great tree ornaments. 

I've shown our seasonal kokeshis in the past (see posts from Dec 2011 and Dec 2012), and it's amazing how clever Japanese craftsman have been with creating Santas and other Christmas figures. Anyway, as you'll see below that Naoko has added some new kokeshis to our collection that really express the Yuletide spirit.

The first one is a delightful Santa by Mr. Hiraga Teruyuki 平賀輝幸さん from Sakunami Onsen 作並温泉 in Miyagi Prefecture. Mr. Hiraga has been a real pioneer with Christmas kokeshis, and while they veer somewhat into the realm of modern kokeshis, I would argue that his creations still retains enough recognizable Sakunami elements as to be classified as traditional. Moreover, the shape of this Santa is similar to a Daruma kokeshi, so there's that element as well. 
Front view.
Side view.
The next piece is also by Mr. Hiraga. I would say this is either an elf or simply one of his traditional kokeshis wearing a Christmas outfit. I love the blend of the Christmas theme with the traditionally painted face.
This is very obviously a Hiraga kokeshi.
The next kokeshi is Santa sitting in a bath. Mr. Hiraga has made bath kokeshis in the past, but I believe this is his first Christmas-themed one.
Front view. That's a real cloth towel by the way.
Here's the back view, with the flower pattern giving away it traditional Sakunami roots. The head swivels by the way.
This last seasonal piece is by Mr. Suzuki Akira 鈴木明さん of Akiu Onsen 秋保温泉 in Miyagi Prefecture. It is an ejiko kokeshi えじここけし, which means that the top comes off and it is hollow on the inside. Sometimes the craftsman will put smaller kokeshis or tops inside their ejiko kokeshis, as is the case here.

Hey, there's something inside!
Two acorn-style tops with traditional kokeshi faces -- fantastic!
Naoko and I really enjoy our Christmas kokeshis, whether they are from traditional and modern kokeshi makers, and my impression is that they are quite popular. They're also not terribly expensive, though I cannot recall the prices for the ones above. Overall, this is an interesting sub-category of kokeshis of which I'll continue to show when we find them.