Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Kokeshi doll ; The model of world famous doll.

Today, I would like to introduce traditional Kokeshi doll artist, Sato Koichi.

He was born in 1936 and studied under HAMAZU HEISABURO from 1957 to 1977.

After that he devoted himself to create Kokeshi Dolls until now.

He is very good at to creating parent or grandparent Kokeshi doll.

This Kokeshi Doll is called ‘Komochi Kokeshi’. ‘Komochi’ means parent in Japanese.
This Kokeshi Doll is called ‘Magomochi Kokeshi’. ‘Magomochi’ means grandparent in Japanese.
Do you remind certain world famous doll when you see these dolls?
Some of you might know but these Kokeshi doll are model of Russian traditional doll called "Matryoshka doll".
We are very very pround of this fact but Matryoshka doll is much more famous than Kokeshi in the world doll nowadays.
We have to do something to let Kokeshi doll be famous like Matryoshka doll or Teddy Bear!!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Kokeshi_column Vol.4

Kokeshi Dolls are mainly divided 2 major categories, Dento (traditional) and Sousaku (Creative).

What are the differences?“Dento Kokeshi Dolls” were made, conforming to traditional method.“Sousaku Kokeshi Dolls” were made from free imagination or idea of the artists.

Today, I would like to talk about Sousaku (Creative) Kokeshi Dolls.

When I introduce Sousaku Kokeshi Dolls, most of Japanese people (maybe non Japanese) would say,

“Is this also Kokeshi Dolls?”

Surely, it is far from the images of Kokeshi Dolls.One of main features of Kokeshi dolls is lack of arms and feet.But some of Sousaku Kokeshi Dolls has arms or feet.We may be able to say that Sousaku Kokeshi Doll is wooden dolls rather than Kokeshi Dolls.

Dento Kokeshi Dolls are originally made as toys for children.Dento Kokeshi Dolls retains the traces of that time.

On the other side, Sousaku Kokeshi Dolls.Sousaku Kokeshi Dolls were not made as a toys for children.They were made for interior ornaments.Nowdays, Dento Kokeshi Dolls are also interior ornament.

There are no strict rules or anything to create Sousaku Kokeshi Dolls.
“I love Sousaku Kokeshi Dolls but I don’t like Dento Kokeshi Dolls so much…!

There are so many people would say like this.Sousaku Kokeshi Dolls are more popular in abroad.On the other hand, there are some Kokeshi collectors who are saying…

“SOUSAKU Kokeshi Dolls are not Kokeshi Dolls!!”

There are always some people who resist new things or stuff. Now we can understand about Sousaku Kokeshi Dolls. But at the time when Sousaku Kokeshi was born, its must be severely criticized.

The designs of Sousaku Kokeshi Dolls are accepted even nowadays. They might be light-years ahead of their time.

Sousaku Kokeshi Doll Artists lives all over Japan not only in Tohoku like Dento Kokeshi Doll artists.(It is said that Sousaku Kokeshi Dolls were born in Gunma prefecture)

The styles of Dolls are different from each artists.

There are some artists who are not Kokeshi Doll artist originally. There was the artist who was the painter of Japanese style paintings changes canvas to Kokeshi Doll.

It is not exact same but there are some Kokeshi Dolls called commercial Kokeshi Dolls. They are made for just souvenir of sight seeing spots.Mostly they were mass-produced on an assembly line. Everything could be bought if the things had the word “Kokeshi” about 30 years ago.

By the way, there are no tests or exams to be Sousaku Kokeshi Doll artist.You don’t need any qualification or license to be the artist like writers or painters.All you need is equipments.Then you can call yourself Sousaku Kokeshi Doll artist.

How about it?
Why don’t you try to be Sousaku Kokeshi Doll artist?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Kokeshi Master Craftman, the late Mr.Watanabe Masao

In this blog, I' writing about Kokeshi dolls and I will write about artists of Kokeshi dolls.

Each Kokeshi dolls was created by the artist one by one by their hands.

So each Kokeshi doll is only one in the entire world.

Today I'd like to introduce Waranabe Masao, the master craftman of Kokeshi dolls.
This is his most inportant work. The design is called 'Mushin (無心)', meaning 'Innocent' in Japanese.

The artist made this Kokeshi Doll with hoping that everyone who sees this Kokeshi Doll becomes to be innocent again.

This model is exhibited in the exhibition that was hold by the small and medium enterprises agency in United States before.

He bleached the color of wood by using special chemical.

Mr. Watanabe Masao was born in 1917 in Fukushima Prefecture.

Originally, he was a traditional Kokeshi artist but he started Sousaku Kokeshi dolls from 1950.

After stating create Sousaku Kokeshi dolls, he showed a great aptitude for creating Kokeshi dolls.

As I wrote avobe, he is really famous in foreign countries and one of his work preserved at the Toys museum in Nürnberg, Germany nowadays.

Of course, his works are highly regarded in Japan.

He won many awards include the award from the Prime Minister twice ('63, '71).

Sadly, He passed away in 2007 when he was 89 years old.
This is a huge loss of the world of Sousaku Kokeshi world.

I will show you some of his other works.

Oboko (おぼこ)           Kantsubaki (寒椿)

There are many his work in our Rocobee Kokeshi Store.

If you won't have a plan to buy them, please just see his great works!!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Kokeshi Column Vol.3

Kokeshi Dolls are mainly divided 2 major categories, DENTO (traditional) and SOUSAKU (Creative).

What are the differences?

“Dento Kokeshi Dolls” were made, conforming to traditional method. “Sousaku Kokeshi Dolls” were made from free imagination or idea of the artists.

Today, I would like to talk about “Dento Kokeshi Dolls”.

When Japanese people heard Kokeshi Doll, Dento Kokeshi Dolls come to their mind. Even we are saying Dento (Traditional), Dento Kokeshi Dolls was born at most 200-300 years ago. It is shorter history than other Japanese traditional crafts.We named Dento for the sake of convenience.

Techniques, forms, designs and so on were handed down from teachers to pupils.Each Kokeshi Doll developed in each area. It is same as the dialects or the differences of lifestyle. Moreover, each lineage has each technique. But we categorized Dento Kokeshi Dolls by the major 11 areas of Tohoku.

There are strict definitions to call Kokeshi Doll as Dento Kokeshi Dolls.

1. Kokeshi Dolls must be made by the family of Kokeshi artists or become a pupil of them.
2. Kokeshi Dolls must followed the definitions or rules.

Dento Kokeshi Dolls are divided in to 11 types.(There are opinions that is 10 types. But we take 11 types)

1.Tsuchiyu (Fukushima)
2.Yajiro (Miyagi)
3.Tougatta (Miyagi)
4.Zao (Yamagata)
5.Sakunami (Yamagata)
6.Yamagata (Yamagata)
7.Naruko (Naruko)
8.Hijiori (Yamagata)
9.Kijiyama (Akita)
10.Nanbu (Iwate)
11.Tsugaru (Aomori)
(I will talk about each type to you later on.)

There is no test in here about this so you don’t need to remember all the name of them. I thought I had to say at least this when I talk about Dento Kokeshi dolls.But maybe there are some people who absorbed them.

Lastly, I would tell you about a question that has no appropriate answer.

Why could Dento Kokeshi Dolls be found only in Tohoku?

Most of Japanese traditional crafts like lacquer wares spread to whole country of Japan.But Dento Kokeshi Doll didn’t. Why?

This is my personal opinion but, the master lives Tohoku area so pupil must go and live there to study about making Kokeshi Dolls.
Then, pupil became a master and next pupil came to this master who lives in Tohoku.And next pupil became next master….This cycle went over and over.

Tohoku might be the best place for Kokeshi dolls artists.Because there were so many materials (woods) to create Kokeshi dolls. So they might not leave there.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Kokeshi column Vol.2

‘MICHINOKU’, the place where Kokeshi Dolls were born.

Kokeshi Doll is a one of local toys.That means they have been loved and favorite in certain area.

So, where is THE certain area?

The answer is ‘MICHINOKU’.

That is to say TOHOKU area.There are so many local toys in Japan.For example, Akabeko (Fukushima), Sarubobo (Gifu) and Hariko (Tokyo).(If you are interested in them, you can find them in wikipedia)

There are not local toys loved as much as Kokeshi Dolls. If it is too much to say that, Kokeshi Doll is well known in Japan. There are many collectors even nowadays. I can say Kokeshi Dolls are indeed King of Japanese local toys.
So, what kind of place where Kokeshi Dolls were born?
Tohoku is composed of following 6 prefectures. Aomori, Iwate, Akita, Miyagi, Yamagata and Fukushima.

At any rate, it is so called and there are much snow in winter time.They have a heavy snowfall that buried houses up to the roof level. You can see nothing but woods.

The chief industries of Tohoku are agricultures mainly rice cultivation.The history of Tohoku agriculture is the battle against the northern limit of rice cultivation. “People of Tohoku vs Sever climate of Tohoku”This is kind of romantic history, isn’t it?

Tohoku is the place that climate is so severe like that. Japanese people believed that the God dwell in the nature.Tohoku people became religious. There are many folk tales, traditional folk songs and Shinto rituals compare to other area of Japan.Sure enough, the influences of nature were great for them. But this severe nature is not only threat for them. That is to say, that is Onsen (hot springs).

There are so many Onsen in Tohoku area. I told that there are 11 categories for Dento (Traditional) Kokeshi Dolls. Each categories matches each Onsen.For example, “Naruko Kokeshi Dolls were from Naruko Onsen” or “Tsuchiyu Kokeshi Dolls were from Tsuchiyu Onsen” and so on.

Tohoku prospered as Onsen resorts in the middle to late EDO period (1700-1867). People went to Onsen to prepare for severe winter climate or celebrate for the good harvest. They brought pots or pans to there. Onsen was radiation place of the energy of Tohoku People.

Originally, Kokeshi dolls were souvenir for the people who come to Onsen.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Speaking of Autumn...

Japan is autumn now.

Leaves are tuning beautiful red or yellow here and there.
The whole mountainside is ablaze with scarlet-tinged leaves especially in the country side.
This time of year is one of the best season to go out.

I can't wait to go out to see the autumn leaves next weekend.

We think that autumn is really nice time to do many things.

We always say 'Speaking of autumn...'

For example,

Speaking of autumn, reading books is really nice.
Speaking of autumn, going out is the best. Not too hot but not too cold.

Here is the Top 5 "speaking of autumn".

1. Appetite (Eating foods)

2. Reading books

3. Playing sports

4. Enjoy the arts

5. Seeing the autumn leaves

What is all come down to is that...

"Autumn is the best season to anything."

We are really active in autumn.
We have to everythinng that we want before winter not to have regrets.

Now what are you going to do this autumn?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Kokeshi column Vol.1

What do you think about KOKESHI Dolls?

Before asking this question, I’d better ask THIS question.

Have you ever heard the word “KOKESHI Dolls”?

Most of people who live on this planet haven’t heard this word.
(except Japanese and collectors.)

KOKESHI Dolls are Japanese wooden dolls.
There are so many kinds.
They are one of authorized traditional hand crafts by government.
That means we must hand down them to coming generations.

You can find KOKESHI Dolls at some souvenir shops in Japan.
(Sadly, not all souvenir shops.)
Maybe there are some Japanese shops in your hometown.
I don’t think they sell them now.

What is KOKESHI Dolls?
Why KOKESHI Dolls were born?
Where KOKESHI Dolls were born?
How KOKESHI Dolls were made and what for?

There are many questions that I have to answer.

I think you know Teddy Bears.
They are also dolls but there are really popular all over the world.
There are so many fans.
I didn’t know but there is JAPAN TEDDY BEAR ASSOCIATION.

KOKESHI Dolls were born before Teddy Bear.
KOKESHI Dolls are handmade dolls one by one like Teddy Bear.
Why can’t KOKESHI Dolls become as popular as Teddy Bears?

Actually, there are enthusiastic collectors all over the world.
If you know about KOKESHI Dolls, I’m sure you will love them.

I will talk a little about some of features of KOKESHI Dolls.

KOKESHI Dolls are the simplest Dolls in the world.
They have just head and body.
(Some of them have hands or feet but some of them are just made from single part)
Then artists paint faces or body designs.
Artists need not only this skill of scrape a wood but also painting.

KOKESHI Dolls are divided into 2 major categories.
“DENTO (Traditional) KOKESHI Dolls” and “SOUSAKU (Creative) Kokeshi Doll”

DENTO KOKESHI Dolls has rules to make.
Artists regard tradition very highly.
There are 11 types of DENTO KOKESHI Dolls.

On the other hand, SOUSAKU KOKESHI Dolls don’t have any rules.
Artists can express their ideas very freely.
Some SOUSAKU KOKESHI Dolls regard as art than dolls.

I think you cannot understand what the KOKESHI Dolls are yet.
In this section, I will give you some information about KOKESHI Dolls.

I will visit the birth place of KOKESHI Dolls.
I will also talk with artists.
"Kokeshi columns" carries these stories too.

I will do my best to answer previous questions and fulfill our mission.
I hope you will know about KOKESHI Dolls even a little.