Whilst I was at HYPER JAPAN recently I came across a stall selling old kokeshi (こけし) dolls (the stall was part of Kimono De Go). As a collector of kokeshi I was curious to see how much they were charging for dolls which were probably found at flea markets.
They hand a range of dolls in all different shapes and sizes, and quite a few were Naruko kokeshi, from Naruko Onsen (鳴子温泉) in Miyagi Prefecture (宮城県). You can easily spot the Naruko kokeshi as they have distinctive red chrysanthemums on the front of them and a slight ridge below the neck. I think the one in the second picture below on the far left is a Naruko kokeshi. The others pictured below all look like Tohoku (東北) kokeshi to me – kokeshi from northern Japan.
I always feel like I’m rescuing kokeshi when I find them like this, and it was all I could do to stop myself rescuing them all! I settled on one in the end – this beauty from Ise (伊勢) in Mie Prefecture (三重県). It was only £10, which I thought was quite a reasonable price to pay.
The design is really unique – I’ve never seen one with a bit of wood showing like that in the middle. The image on the bottom of the doll is Meoto Iwa (夫婦岩), the ‘Wedded Rocks’, and the image at the top is the Ise Grand Shrine (伊勢神宮).
Looking at the picture above, it seems like the date on the bottom is 52.10.28, which would be Showa 52, i.e. 1977. So, if I’m right, this kokeshi was made on 28th October 1977. Upon closer inspection, I think one part on the base says ６年生 (roku nensei) which means ‘6th grade’ (of primary/elementary school). I wonder if this was a gift for someone going into or completing their 6th grade at the age of 11 or 12?
I can’t read the rest of the kanji, but the writing on the bottom of the doll at the front looks the same as the writing in the centre of the base, so I’m guessing that’s a signature. If anyone can read the rest, I’d be delighted!
It certainly makes a great addition to my kokeshi family, which now stands at over 20 members!