Vintage Sosaku Kokeshi

Japanese Modern Creative "Brush Kokeshi" by Shido Shouzan

Shido Shouzan


Descriptive qualities& condition:

Dimensions: 7-1/8"h; 6-1/4"h

Offered is a modern, Creative, and RARE whimsical, calligraphy brush-shaped Kokeshi purchased at the Arima Onsen, just outside Kobe and opposite of Mount Rokko, Hyogo Prefecture. The ryokan is one of the oldest Hot spring resorts in Western Japan. On the body on the largest Kokeshi is written the name “Arima”, with a red impressed stamp of the artist.

This piece was inspired by a Sumi-e drawing brush and was the basis for this unusual Shozan design in Kokeshi form. The Fude, or brush, has been integral to Japanese culture since the introduction of standardized writing systems from the continent of Asia in the fifth century. The Art of Shodo, (calligraphy, employing Japanese kana characters), has been held in high esteem and became “a powerful way to inculcate the values of Bushido”, and a means of communication, as well as the Zen practice that evokes harmony and wisdom.

These interesting doll forms are minimalistic and use the natural wood to its full potential. Representing a short shaft brush, it shows a simulation of upside-down bristles representing the dolls black hair, with simple Sumi-e executed faces and traditional side hair fringes. Both have calligraphy on the front of the bodies with Shouzan’s red impressed stamp on the largest figure. His Kokeshi dolls are so unique, popular, and difficult to find even in Japan.

This whimsical, calligraphy brush-shaped Kokeshi, according to Shouzan was inspired by the following poem entitled: Kitaga ze fuki 

The north wind blows the white clouds ten thousand miles across the cold river. It's a long way to cross the cold river (but) when (two) hearts met, they sway, fall down, and do not hear autumn's voice.

Condition: Excellent, original condition, with no fading or loss of color and consistent with age and standards of collectible Folk Art. All details are perfect and as crafted.

Artisan | Woodworker: Shido, Shouzan | 1932-1995


Shido-san is considered by Kokeshi collectors and critics alike to be arguably the most influential artist in the world of Sosaku Kokeshi doll making. Shido-san’s main focus was depicting unadorned Northern girls in the traditional “Mino”, or Snow Coat, but he also produced tall, thin dolls, which were sparsely decorated. His keen sense of design, minimal use of color, and simple elegant shapes set him apart from his peers, making him one of the most collectible artists emerging from the creative period of the ‘60s. He is a winner of the Prime Minister’s Award, among many other awards.

Collector's note – descriptive qualities, standard characteristics & ornamentation styles:

Shido-san loved studying the use of combining different types of wood to gain the desired effect and to give dimension to his pieces. He also enjoyed creating slender, tall dolls to support the fact that they resemble the tall, thin trees seen throughout Japan. He incorporated a repetitive textural pattern called ‘Harmonic Chatter work’ to enhance the natural qualities of the wood on many of his works.

Shido-san particularly enjoyed the textural qualities of ‘Chattering’ on the rain/snow coat, (Minomushi), which is a favorite theme, executed with minimal painted ornamentation, with an emphasis on the natural wood. In general, it is said the Japanese culture is one of modesty and humility. Occasionally we see different types of headdress, one of which he called a ‘Tsunokakushi’, which is a wide headresses or hood, which covered elaborate hairstyles. We are told that the Japanese people regulate their behavior and response by reading faces and the eyes of others. Here, as well as elsewhere, you will see many examples of different characteristics of the eye is expressions. His most famous doll was called “mai”, a dancer, which was an elegant and slender doll created in 1970. This doll exhibited traditional hair design with an emphasis on a brightly colored “obi” which brings forth the best use of complex geometry to create traditional Japanese clothing elements.

Shido-san was a prolific artist/woodworker of Kokeshi dolls. We additionally see unusual subjects focused on Zen Buddhism and figures of Daruma, (Bodhidharma) of which most were made in a “roly-poly” type figure seen throughout festivals in Japan.

Artist's Signature: