Thursday, October 3, 2013

Smiley Kokeshi ほほえみがえし

In my previous entry I introduced what I thought were two "sad" kokeshis. My dear wife and fellow enthusiast Naoko politely disagreed that those kokeshis are actually sad, but the greater point was that kokeshis can and do convey a surprising range of subtle emotions. As we see in this beautiful Tsuchiyu kokeshi 土湯系こけし by Mr. Abe Kunitoshi 阿部国敏さん of Tsuchiyu Onsen in Fukushima Prefecture, sometimes those emotions can be quite overt, and in fact its name ほほえみがえし translates as something like "returning a smile." A very happy kokeshi indeed!
Head goes up.
Head tilts down.
This smiley kokeshi is unique and definitely blurs the lines between traditional and modern types. Most obvious is the non-traditional cone-shaped body, but it also has a bobble head which, as far as I am aware, one never sees on Tsuchiyu kokeshis. It's only about 9.5 centimeters (3.5 inches) tall, though it does not seem like a small kokeshi. Overall, it's a brilliant design.
Here's a good view showing the Mr. Abe's signature and the bobble-head design.
We tried to get one of these little guys back in summer 2011 during our first large-scale kokeshi adventure when we were fatefully detoured up into Tsuchiyu Onsen. However, they were sold out and even today remain difficult to get due to their popularity.

The case of Tsuchiyu Onsen and the kokeshi tradition there is a sad one two and a half years after the Fukushima disaster. The area is still irradiated, and while the amounts of radiation are fairly low, long-term exposure would be unsafe. As a result tourists are not going to Tsuchiyu. I have heard that the remaining kokeshi makers are doing their best to keep things going, and hopefully they will succeed.      

1 comment:

  1. Hi John, my friends and I, following in your footsteps, went up to Tsuchiyo onsen earlier this year. It was a lovely little place and the people we met were great. I hope they can make things succeed. I would definitely recommend it for a night or so for any one wishing to support the kokeshi artists there. We had a lovely time. Keep on blogging ��