Nakanosawa Traditional Kokeshi Dolls

Japanese Traditional Kokeshi | Nakanosowa-Kei (Family)

Prefecture: Fukushima


The Nakanosawa doll is a member of the Tsuchiyu family. However, it is so obviously different from the rest of this family that it warrants its own description. This distinctively painted traditional doll was originally created by Iwamoto Zenkichi, in Nakanosawa Onsen, in the town of Inawashiro, Fukushima Prefecture. How they came to be created is a wonderful story. It is said that a street dancer named Iwamoto Kenichi and performed a fast tempo foot dance called a "Kappore" fore which which he gave dancing lessions to local geisha girls. He created a Kokeshi doll copied after a pillow that he used in this dance. The painted pillow from which his Kokeshi doll had facial features as well as painted bold flower patterns. His audience was soon so taken with his dance with the pillow that they asked for a doll to be made with these special features and nicknamed affectionately as a "Tako Bouzu" with characteristic large popping eyes and bold flower design.

Collector's note – characteristics / painting style:

In the beginning, the doll was made of papier maché. When Kenichi’s son began to produce the doll, it was made like the rest of the traditional Kokeshi, but retained the large, expressive eyes, over-sized head, and reddish to pink blush on each cheek, similar to that painted on the pillow. The dolls also had a very different nose, with flared nostrils, much like a lion’s nose (shishi-bana). They were usually painted in the style of the rest of the Tsuchiyu Kokeshi, with the Janome rings painted on their heads and Rokoru bands on the tall, thin and tapering bodies.

One of the more unique features still found on Nakanosawa dolls, however, are the large, open peonies, which people claim were originally inspired by the tattoos that the Geisha sported.

These dolls also have been given the humorous name of “Tako Bozo”, which translated means “an octopus with a monk’s shaven head”. After the death of Kenichi’s son Yoshizou, a group of craftsmen kept the making of the Nakanosawa doll alive. While considered a sub-strain of the Tsuchiyu Kokeshi, these beguiling dolls have a special attraction to collectors because of their history.

Nakanosawa family kokeshi style

Notable artists:

Seya Kouji, b. 1952
Kakizaki Fumiio, b.1947
Arakawa Youicihi, b. 1938
Sanbe Haruo, b. 1929
Takahashi, Takeo, Master
Seya, Juji, Master, b. 1924
Iwamoto Yoshizo, Grand Master


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