Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Visit to Aida Kokeshi 会田こけしへの旅

During our big Kokeshi Adventure to Yamagata Prefecture, the next day after visiting Mr. Shida we drove north for about 45 minutes to Tendo Onsen 天童温泉, a hot bath town best known for the Japanese chess game shogi 将棋 (the distinctive shogi obelisk-shape is everywhere), and, to a lesser degree, kokeshis. We visited two kokeshi makers while there, and today I'll focus on Mr. Aida Eiji 会田栄治さん who makes Yamagata Kokeshis 山形系こけし. We've been to the town a couple times before and always enjoy being there, but both times Mr. Aida was not in so we never got to meet him. Would we be luckier this time?
When you see this sign you know you're in Tendo.
The shogi-piece shape can be see pretty much everywhere in town. This one, and others like it, is at the central park.
Another shogi piece with the surrounding mountains beyond. As you can see, we had nice weather.
We first stopped by the city's tourist office, a beautiful facility with good information about the local area and a display of locally made crafts. Among the handcrafted items were three kokeshis, which was a good sign. After the kids ran around for a bit in the park outside we headed to the Shogi Piece and Folk Arts 駒と民芸 shop in the center of town.
Kokeshis on display.
The the Shogi Piece and Folk Arts shop is, as its name implies, a place to get shogi pieces and folk art of various sorts. However, the bulk of the folk arts is actually kokeshis by Mr. Aida. We got lucky this time, too, because Mr. Aida was in. We spent some time talking to him about history and of the  kokeshis from the area. It turns out that Mr. Aida is quite fascinated with the local kokeshi tradition, and he told us a bit about what he has discovered. That was very interesting.
This is the back entrance to the shop, where the parking lot is.
Mr. Aida's kokeshis are the ones on the bottom, and only those were for sale. One thing I've noticed about Mr. Aida's kokeshis is the unique shape of the head. It's neither round nor cylindrical, but somewhere in between.
Naoko and Mr. Aida.
Signing the guest book.
After that we found a kokeshi that we really liked, which now graces our collection. It's a rare non-striped Yamagata kokeshi, a style that Mr. Aida recently resurrected.
Naoko was pretty happy with the kokeshi we got.
A box of Aida kokeshis. Beautiful craftsmanship.
Mr. Aida's work area. As you can see, he is surrounded by a collection of kokeshis by many of his fellow craftsmen.
A photo of a photo of the kokeshi style we purchased.
This was a nice trip and easy to do since Mr. Aida's shop is right in the heart of Tendo. Highly recommended!

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