Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Upcoming Kokeshi Festivals 2015

A quick blog entry to let fellow international kokeshi enthusiasts living outside of Japan know that the 61st annual National Kokeshi Festival 全国こけし祭り at Naruko Onsen 鳴子温泉 in Miyagi Prefecture is scheduled for September 4th, 5th and 6th 2015. This is the biggest and longest running kokeshi festival and I cannot recommend it enough. We went last year and it was fantastic. Six craftsmen are scheduled to attend this year, plus there will be thousands of kokeshis and other wooden crafts for sale along with hundreds (thousands?) of fellow kokeshi lovers, plus there's the annual kokeshi competition, the giant kokeshi parade, a kokeshi forum, and so forth. If you are going to be in Japan in early September then definitely try to work this into your itinerary!
Festival poster -- click to see full size.
Click here to see the festival web site, which is mostly in Japanese but fun to see anyway. The National Kokeshi Festival also has its own Facebook page (click here) that not only provides updates but also has numerous photos of kokeshi craftsmen and ongoing local kokeshi events up in Tohoku. It almost makes me want to join Facebook!


  1. Hi John! Thank you for posting about this! We are heading down there from Aomori Prefecture and plan to be there on Saturday. It is our 5th Anniversary--our "Wooden" Anniversary :) We would like to make sure we don't miss the doll burning ceremony. However, when we try to translate the schedule, it isn't clear when that happens.

    Does it take place on Friday?
    9/4 (Friday) 18:00-
    (Spring shrine)
    KOKESHI Memorial Festival

    or Saturday morning?
    9/5 (Saturday) 9:00-
    (Spring shrine)
    KOKESHI dedication ceremony

    or Saturday evening?
    9/5 (Saturday) only 18:00-
    (Naruko hot spring area and Festival Plaza)
    Festival Parade
    Papier-mache Kokeshi Kokeshi mimics the public offering was better the town parade. KOKESHI yukata local women's associations and women's Association of the sister cities of naruko dance is a must-see. Every other character, 10,000 shrines even light appeared.

    ....Can you possibly help us to decide if we should also come on Friday too so we won't miss that ceremony? We are trying to avoid staying in lodging for two nights since we have a toddler. Thanks so much!

    1. Ms. Roberts,
      I'm glad you read the post in time and will be attending the National Kokeshi Festival in Naruko. I've seen the kokeshi-burning ceremony twice and it's very moving -- you won't regret seeing it. However, it is essentially a religious ceremony so nothing exciting happens -- very peaceful and quiet and Japanese. Still, it's a great opportunity. And yes, you are correct about the schedule. According to the official web site the kokeshi memorial (burning) ceremony takes place starting at 6 pm on Friday, 4 September. If you attend plan on arriving early but don't expect to sit in one of the chairs unless invited -- those seats are usually reserved for the craftsmen and special guests. Of course there's the kokeshi dedication ceremony on Saturday morning an hour before the doors to the festival open which will be easy to attend if you're arrived in town the day before for the Kokeshi burning. I enjoyed the dedication ceremony, but it takes place inside the Kokeshi Jinja so it's hard to see what's going on and you won't be able to go inside to see the kokeshis until everyone leaves and the ceremony is over. But don't let that discourage you since you should experience everything if possible. By the way, if you're there early for that ceremony don't forget to jump into line to get into the festival which will take place in the old Naruko school gym. You'll know what I'm talking about when you get there. And yes, you do not want to miss the parade with the paper-mache kokeshis and the dancers that evening, followed by music/dancing in the center of town and then the mikoshi parade at the end. A dear friend of mine said it's the best matsuri he's ever been to, and he's been to a lot of great Japanese festivals!
      So I believe have made the decision for you -- you should plan on staying two nights. But don't stay at the kokeshi venue all day on Saturday; go see the crater lake, or walk in the woods, or ride the train through the mountains to Yamagata, or visit the kokeshi makers' shops inside and outside of Naruko, stroll around Naruko's streets, etc, and then return later in the day for the Naruko festival events. And then Sunday morning you can go back to the kokeshi venue one more time to get some more kokeshis.
      Most of all have fun!

    2. Thank you for all your great information, John! We made it into town just in time to see the burning ceremony and it was just beautiful! We stayed through the festivities on Saturday night and had a wonderful time! It was definitely our most favorite festival by far. We hope to still be here to enjoy it again next year. A perfect 5th year anniversary for sure!