Sosaku Kokeshi Entitled: “Akatonbo | Red Dragonfly” | Tsujita, Tatsuya | 1970
As featured in the book Sosaku Kokeshi: A New Look At An Old Tradition, this abstract representation of young girl moon watching, with pigtails flying, and wonderful Tonbo depicted on her clothing, illustrate the contemporary nature surrounding Kokeshi making. These unique lathe-turned, hand-painted dolls show a technical competence by the artist. Very little information can be found on Tatsuya, but it is possible that he is a son or relative of Ryozo. Dimension: 6-0”h
Tonbo is a symbol of the Samurai that represents the “never giving up”, as the dragonfly doesn’t move backwards. The dragonfly is perhaps the oldest symbol in Japan, and is represented in the many forms of art throughout the ages. The Nihon Shoki, the second oldest book of classical Japanese history, refers to Dragonflies as ‘Akitsu’. Very often, the Samurai wore clothes, or ornaments that showcased the Tonbo design, as a reminder to never give up, but instead look towards the future. And finally, September is time for moon viewing, (Otsukimi), which these figures are positioned to enjoy. Moon viewing is a tradition which originally came from China. It first arrived in Japan in the late Nara or early Heian period, and became an established custom among Japanese people in the Edo period. Originally there were three occasions: Shoshu (the 7th month of the old lunar calendar), Chushu (the 8th month), and Banshu (the 9th month). The custom was to enjoy the sight of the full moon at these times. The night of the 15th day of the 8th month (around the middle of September in today’s calendar system) was called “Jyugoya ” (the 15th night), and the moon on this night was considered especially beautiful, and called “Chushu no Meigetsu,” or the harvest moon of mid-fall.
This is also the time of a year when most crops are harvested in Japan, and the custom of moon viewing is a way of giving thanks for the year’s yields. Because it occurs in the best season for harvesting taro (a kind of potato), sometimes the harvest moon of mid-fall is also called “Imo Meigetsu” or taro harvest moon. Another special time for moon viewing is the night of the 13th day of the 9th month in the old lunar calendar, the middle of October in today’s calendar, which is called Jyusanya (the 13th night). Having a moon viewing on this night is a custom which was started in Japan. People who view both Jyugoya and Jyusanya (On the 15th night and the 13th night), set up a viewing area on their veranda, and decorate with offerings of dumplings made to look like the moon, called tsukimi dango, crops from the harvest, and Japanese pampas grass. Then they sit and enjoy the view of the full moon. The reason the pampas grass is used for decoration is because not only does it resemble the grasses of the rice plant, but it’s cut ends are very sharp and it is said to protect you from evil spirits.