Sunday, February 23, 2014

Nambu Kokeshis 南部系こけし

During our many kokeshi adventures Naoko, the girls and I have travelled throughout much of Tohoku and met craftsmen of many traditions. There is, sadly, one big hole in those adventures. On a couple of occasions we've zipped though Iwate Prefecture on the highway, but we've never stopped there, and therefore have never become familiar with Nambu kokeshis 南部系こけし that come from Iwate. Having said that, there are some good reasons for not having yet gone to Iwate, not least is which there are hardly any kokeshi makers left in that huge prefecture. Looking at the 2011 kokeshi makers guidebook there are only 14 people listed. Of those fourteen, four do not even make Nambu kokeshis, and of the ten listed as Nambu craftsmen three have already passed away and one has stopped making kokeshis. That means there are just six Nambu craftsmen still actively making kokeshis in Iwate. The good thing is that over the years we have managed to find a couple new ones, and Naoko has patiently gathered a few nice used kokeshis, but frankly those seem to be as rare as the new ones. And that's too bad, because as you'll see below the Nambu tradition has produced some very nice designs with very nice faces. The other thing I need to mention is that some Nambus have a unique feature not seen anywhere else -- a head that swivels 360 degrees. Today (from what I can tell) there are three types of Nambu kokeshis: One that's a completely blank body, one that looks like a candle, and one that has a swiveling head known as kina kina キナキナ that is only found in Nambu kokeshis.
This terrific piece is by Mr. Sasaki Kakuhei 佐々木覚平さん who passed away a few years ago. Naoko bought this one used last year. 
A close up of the head, which swivels by the way. I've never seen that head design anywhere else. 
Another nice kokeshi by Mr. Sasaki.
... which also has a swiveling head.
Another used piece by Mr. Sasaki with that rounded chest style and the rare use of blue and yellow. It's hard to tell in the photo, but little guy is only about three inches tall.
This close up shows the hair well -- very unique.
We purchased this Nambu by Mr. Sato Tadao 佐藤忠雄さん of Hanamaki City 花巻市 a couple of years ago at a kokeshi festival. Mr. Sato is an active kokeshi maker.
As you can see, its head swivels. 
This beauty was made by someone from the Susumago 煤孫 family, though I cannot say exactly who. It's a quite tall and thin kokeshi.
It, too, has a swiveling head. 
Old and new. The big kokeshi in the middle is by Mr. Takahashi Kinzo 高橋金三さん who made this in 1984 (written on the bottom). An antique?  The small ones that look like candles are brand new and were made by 32-year old kokeshi craftsman Ms. Tayama Izumi 田山和泉さん of Morioka City 盛岡市.
These days this blank kokeshi style by Mr. Matsuda Hiroji 松田広次さん is considered to be emblematic of the Nambu tradition. The craftsmanship is impeccable, though I have to admit that I prefer my kokeshis to have faces. As shown above, though, there used to be, and to a certain degree still is, a large variety within the Nambu tradition.
One good source on Nambu kokeshis is issue 2 of Kokeshi Jidai こけし時代 magazine seen in the photo below. It came out back in October 2011, but it still might be available out there somewhere on the Internet.

Hawaii Kokeshi Adventure 5 ハワイのこけし冒険5

While on the Big Island Naoko, the girls, the Togatta kokeshi and I stayed for one night at a coffee plantation. We picked a few coffee beans (I even got the kokeshi out there) and enjoyed seeing what it takes to grow coffee. Yes folks, this is American coffee, and boy is it delicious.
Rows and rows of coffee plants.
Kokeshi and coffee cherries.

Kokeshis love coffee.

This is the last Hawaii kokeshi blog -- I hope you've enjoyed seeing the kokeshi in that beautiful part of the world.

Hawaii Kokeshi Adventure 4 ハワイのこけし冒険4

During our Hawaii trip back in December we went to a black sand beach on the Big Island, and while there I snapped a few shots of the kokeshi enjoying the scenery. There was even a sea turtle on beach, which appears in the background of a couple shots. Kokeshis love sand as I found out in Qatar last year, and the black sand was especially popular.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Brochures パンフレット

When we went up to Yamagata last November for the kokeshi festival I was surprised to find a number of brochures and advertisements with kokeshi-related information or themes in them. To me this shows that the recent kokeshi boom is still going strong!

The first sample is a one-page biographic newsletter about Yamagata kokeshi 山形系こけし craftsman Ms. Umeki Naomi 梅木直美さん. This was issue 31, and I would guess that each issue covers a person of note in the Yamagata area.
The next example is a free newspaper advertising a new feature movie that took place in Yamagata. One of the characters was a little girl who, as you can see in the photo, is holding a kokeshi. I'm not sure if the kokeshi is part of the film, but it's possible.
The next sample is the cover of a Fukushima Prefecture vistors' guide book, which we found at a rest area in Fukushima. You'll notice down at the bottom is a beautiful Tsuchiyu kokeshi 土湯系こけし, of course native to Fukushima.  
The next two images are of advertising postcards that we discovered in Miyagi prefecture, both of which show Sakunami kokeshis 作並系こけし by Mr. Hiraga Teruyuki 平賀輝幸さん.  
The final images are from the free monthly Yamagata-specific magazine Gatta! This issue's main article was entitled "Yamagata Kokeshi Guide" (やまがたこけしずかん) and was entirely about Yamagata kokeshis and craftsmen. Fantastic!
I'm sure there are many more materials like these out there, so I'll keep my eyes peeled and report on what I find in future blog entries.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

January Kokeshi Friends Meeting 1月のこけし友の会

Last week Naoko returned to Kanda in Tokyo to attend the January Kokeshi Friends meeting. As usual, this was a major event and she returned home with four very nice additions to our collection. Two of the them were "omiyage" kokeshi お土産こけし that came with admission at the door, one was purchased from a visiting craftsman -- Mr. Hasegawa Masashi 長谷川優志さん -- who attended the meeting, and the other Naoko got to choose during the name-drawing portion of the meeting.
The crowd forming in the meeting room before the meeting began.
Kokeshi books and magazines for sale.
Because it was the New Years' meeting things were done a little differently than usual. Most importantly, there was a large selection of new kokeshis rather than the huge selection of used ones that we usually see. Naoko said the room was packed with young Japanese females who are increasingly being bitten by the kokeshi bug, and a good time was had by all.
A nice little Tsugaru kokeshi by Mr. Hasegawa Masashi who was at the meeting selling kokeshis and meeting his fans.
A beautiful, classic Tsugaru by Ms. Okuse Yoko 奥瀬陽子さん. This one was actually used, though it doesn't look like it.
This Hijiori 肘折系こけし by Mr. Suzuki Seiichi 鈴木征一さん was one of the two omiyage kokeshis that Naoko received.
The other omiyage kokeshi was this candle-shaped Naruko 鳴子系こけし by Mr. Izu Toru 伊豆徹さん.
And here they are together for a size comparison. Fantastic.
Four very nice additions to our collection. Hurray!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Joyful Honda Kokeshi Fair ジョイフル本田のこけしフェア

Note the logo on the bottom left.
Last weekend Naoko and I were pleasantly surprised to find out that one of the giant stores in western Tokyo -- Joyful Honda -- was having a traditional kokeshi "fair" in its arts and crafts section. They even had a big banner over the area so you couldn't miss the display. The banner itself was cool: It was so enormous that it was visible from all over the store, it was shaped like a noren, and it had a special logo suggesting that a graphic design pro who knows and loves kokeshis did the work. That in and of itself was worth seeing.
Naoko examining the display.
While the display was not huge it was definitely thorough, with a very nice selection including a large selection of Naruko kokeshis 鳴子系こけし. Moreover, the prices seemed about the same as what we've seen elsewhere. There were also many traditional wooden toys from Tohoku, a large selection of books and magazines, kokeshi notebooks and goods, blanks for those wanting to design their own kokeshis, some Hina kokeshis for the upcoming Girls Day, and even some Kokeshikas (Kokeshi + Matyroshika) from the Kokeshika shop down in Kamakura. Overall, very impressive.    
A nice variety of traditional kokeshis and wooden toys. 
A nice selection of magazines and goods. We bought the latest edition of Kokeshi Jidai こけし時代.
Kokeshi blanks for making your own masterpiece. 
Cute little mushrooms with traditional kokeshi faces. What's not to like about these?
The Naruko display.
Hina kokeshis.
If the Joyful Honda Kokeshi Fair at the Mizuho Town 瑞穂町 branch sounds interesting to you, it will be running through 3 March (2014).