Seen are very fine and rare examples of one of the most popular, historical Kokeshi figures: that of a woman referred to as, “Tojin”, (foreigner’s concubine), and represents Okichi, Saito, who became a concubine of a member of the first American Consul in Japan.
According to legend, she was born in 1841, in the small fishing village of Shimoda, on the Izu Peninsula. Shimoda was the location of Commodore Matthew Perry’s first landing in 1853. Perry had sailed there with the intention of opening a trade agreement between Japan and the West, and the Treaty of Kanagawa resulted from this first visit, ending Japan’s centuries of self-imposed isolation. As the story goes, one of Perry’s aids, a Townsend Harris, became infatuated with Ms. Saito. When government officials got wind of this, they forced the young woman, who was 17 at the time, to become Harris’ mistress, in the hopes that this would greatly improve trade negotiations with the United States. Five years later Harris returned home because of ill health. Okichi was free now, but a wounded person, scorned by the townsfolk, forever. A book entitled: Butterfly in the Wind was written by Rei Kimura to document her life experience.
As collectors we felt it was most important to represent all Sosaku Kokeshi artists, whether or not the artist has a written account of his or her life. Each show the diversity of this cultural specialization and the creative work produced by this artist.
Collector's note – descriptive qualities, standard characteristics & ornamentation styles
These creative Kokeshi are always pictured as tall slender figures with tilted head and Kansashi interwoven into her hair. All have beautifully colored Kimono exhibiting traditional motifs of flowers, bamboo leaves, pine trees, a fan, and the sea. She seems wrapped tightly in the upper portion of the kimono with a very tight lower half of the garment.