Saturday, August 15, 2015

November 2014 Tokyo Kokeshi Friends Meeting 東京こけし友の会 例会11月

Continuing my recap of our final kokeshi adventures in Japan from the end of 2014, on 23 November I headed by myself to the Kanda section in the heart of downtown Tokyo for the monthly Tokyo Kokeshi Friends 東京こけし友の会 meeting. Note: On this blog I have been translating 友の会 (tomo no kai) as "friends association", which is literal, but better might simply be "club." But then "Tokyo Kokeshi Club" doesn't really capture the serious side of the organization. On the other hand it might be best to simply romanize the Japanese "Tokyo Kokeshi Tomo no Kai" and skip translating the name altogether. I've never asked anyone if the Tokyo Kokeshi Tomo no Kai has an official English name, so I'll have to enquire about that.
Getting back to the kokeshi adventure, while this is fairly old news I have lots of good pictures and want to show this event since it was the final time I attended a Kokeshi Tomo no Kai meeting before moving to California. Furthermore, seeing these images is another chance for kokeshi enthusiasts outside of Japan to see what's going on among the serious collectors in the Tokyo area. Of course the Tomo no Kai is strictly interested in traditional kokeshis from northeastern Japan -- no modern or creative kokeshis here!
Entrance to the West Exit Shopping Street.
I'm sure that for anyone born and bred in Tokyo a trip to Kanda for the Kokeshi Tomo no Kai meeting is fairly routine, or perhaps even a drag. But I have to admit that every time I head into the heart of that amazing city it truly is an adventure since there is always something interesting to see. Naturally once kokeshis are added then it becomes a fun kokeshi adventure. So I took the train downtown and walked through Kanda's West Exit Shopping Street 西口商店街 which is for pedestrians only, and as I strolled along I bought a delicious dora-yaki as a snack to go with my coffee. Dora-yaki is basically two small pancakes with sweet bean paste in the middle. Delicious! I love stuff like this in Japan. 
The dora-yaki shop on the way to the meeting.
When I arrived at the meeting place people were already milling around examining the kokeshis on sale and display. I couldn't believe this was my last Kokeshi Tomo no Kai meeting and I would be bidding farewell to the friends and acquaintances that Naoko and I had gotten to know over the previous years. On the other hand it was a last chance to pick up some good used and new kokeshis, so what might I come home with? Well, to begin with everyone attending received one of three small kokeshis made by Mr. Sato Hideyuki 佐藤英之さん, a Yajiro kokeshi 弥次郎けいこけし maker from southern Fukushima Prefecture. Naoko and I really like his and his family's work, so this was nice present. 
The three different Sato Hideyuki kokeshis for the November meeting. Everyone in attendance received one of them.
That's my kokeshi, my number for the buying portion of the meeting, plus some postcards and pamphlets that were being given away.
As usual there were different categories of kokeshis for people to buy. First were the rare kokeshis that went by bidding. There were times when those kokeshis would go for a tens of thousands of yen, or a couple hundred dollars. The next grouping consisted of about hundred used kokeshis from all eleven families as can be seen in the photos below. This was always my favorite part of the meeting (and everyone else's I think) since it was a chance to find unique and sometimes hard-to-find pieces at a very fair price (and sometimes half price for those that didn't sell in the first round). I was in the last group to be called to the front, so most of what I had had my eye on had already been grabbed, but as I recall I still found a couple of beautiful Kijiyama kokeshis. The final grouping was new kokeshis. I believe this was popular for those who weren't able to make it up to visit kokeshi makers as much as they would like.  
Examining kokeshis.
Special and rare kokeshis up for bid.
A view of the used kokeshis.

The following are photos of the new kokeshis, and I especially liked the Kijiyamas. However they were snatched up pretty quickly and by the time my number was called they were already gone. 
I was especially attracted to these Kijiyamas in the middle, but they sold out well before my number was called. 
This was a special kokeshi set that came in a wooden box. I don't recall if it was for sale or just on display. That would have made a very nice present for someone.
A row of Kijiyamas by Mr. Ogura Eiji 小椋英二さん the only traditional kokeshi maker in Tokyo.
A selection of new wooden toys and tops made by kokeshi craftsmen. Some collectors are very interested these as well, and they sold quite quickly.
Before the buying and bidding there were some introductions, announcements about the kokeshi world, and then a slide presentation by a young guy who discussed Pez dispensers, Legos, and kokeshis. I'm not sure what his main thesis was, but it looked interesting. Finally the time arrived for the kokeshi purchasing to begin and it was crazy and exhilarating as usual, and I'm pretty sure everyone got exactly what they wanted! 
Discussing Pez dispensers which have a slight resemblance to kokeshis.
I think this display was part of the slide show on Pez dispensers.
Following the kokeshi buying spree Mr. Hashimoto gave a slide show about some recent kokeshi events and craftsmen, which was really good. While it's true that everyone in the Kokeshi Tomo no Kai loves adding new kokeshis to their collections, these slide shows always add to our knowledge and show that collecting kokeshis is much more than the simple act of buying wooden dolls. 
Mr. Hashimoto's slide show.
Another slide.
Of course as the lone American Tomo no Kai member (well, Naoko was the member and I just tagged along) in the room I naturally stuck out, and everyone was aware that this was my last meeting. Because of that I was asked to say a few words to the group which I happily obliged, and everyone was very gracious. The members of the Tokyo Kokeshi Tomo no Kai are truly a pleasant group of people. 

I think these are the kokeshis I was able to purchase, but it's now just a blur and I honestly can't remember. Maybe these were the ones my friend Hiro bought.
And so ended the last Tomo no Kai meeting that either Naoko or I will be attending for quite some time. Such sweet sorrow, but good memories as usual.

If the Tomo no Kai sounds interesting to you then by all means join, especially if you live in Japan! Click here to go to the web site. This is an open organization and Japanese and non-Japanese alike are heartily welcomed. Yes, everything is done in Japanese and even though I speak Japanese fairly well half of the time I had no idea what was being discussed. But it never mattered because in the end we all love kokeshis which is a language all its own. 

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