Antique Japanese Toy

Japanese Sosaku Tougatta Ejiko with Koma by Rokogou Hitomi

Age:Late 1940s

Descriptive qualities& condition:

Dimensions: 4-1/2”dia

Offered is a "one of a kind", container and Shiroishi City competition winner called an “obunko”. The body (base) contains four beautifully proportioned spinning tops (koma) and crafted to compliment the container by creative Kokeshi artist, Rokogou Hitomi. This Ejiko container is a Sosaku version of the Tougatta style and is very rotund in form made from birch wood, with just the head of the Kokeshi functioning as the handle to open the container. The element that brings this Ejiko into the Sosaku category of Kokeshi is that the artist broke from the traditional body motif and used variegated green maple leaves to ornament the exterior. The head and facial characteristics follow the Tougatta family motif with one exception. The artist incorporated full expressive baby black hair on the top of the head. It also has the traditional side hair fringes to frame the face. Its face incorporates the Tougatta style eyes which are long, narrow, and crescent-shaped with double eyelids. Its nose is simply a button nose referred to as “neko-bana” or cat nose with tiny lips. The piece is unsigned but during this period of Kokeshi making, he was known by the town folks and it was not considered necessary to sign pieces. BEING A VERY RARE EJIKO IT SHOULD REMAIN IN A SERIOUS COLLECTION OF KOKESHI.

Condition:  Excellent, original condition, and well preserved for its age. The lid fits perfectly to the body of the piece. It is beautiful and well-formed and excellent proportions. 

NOTE: Ejiko’s origin is derived from a folk toy that is called an Izume.ko Doll, (Izume.Ko means “Isume baby in the Yamagata dialect) that dates from the early 1910s and which comes from Tsuruoka, of the Yamagata prefecture. 

The toy is based on an Isume, a woven basket container that was traditionally used to keep the rice warm, but in the Tsuruoka area, farmers would keep their babies in the baskets during the busy season. This allowed them to watch the little ones while they worked the fields. Small toys would be placed in the basket along with the baby, comforting the baby and easing the mother’s mind throughout the day.

Japanese Traditional Kokeshi | Tougatta-Kei (Family)

Prefecture: Miyagi


Tougatta dolls are thought to be the oldest family members of the Traditional school. They originated in the Tougatta Onsen in the Miyagi Prefecture, and were subsequently being produced also at Aone Onsen, and the cities of Sendai, and Izumi. In the 1960s, Togatta craftsman founded the Tougatta Kiji Union, a cooperative that was able to gain the rights for reserved wood use from the Japanese Ministry of Forestry. The Tougatta style are easily found by collectors in an interesting range of variations.

Collector's note – characteristics/painting style:

They are easily recognized by their narrow, columnar body shapes, tapering at the shoulders to a head that is wider than the rest of the doll, and more angular than round. Most Tougatta dolls have bangs split in two with side fringes, thin narrow eyes, and a split nose or cat-type nose. Several have paintings of chrysanthemums, (Kiku), plums (Ume), and iris (Ayame), usually in very stylized designs. The dolls decorated with plum branches and blossoms are associated with Aone Onsen. There is also a group which have ‘banded’ bodies. These are decorated in a circular-style painting known as Rokoru Moyo, which is done as the doll is turned on the lathe. Here again, the head is a squeeze-in type, but cannot be turned to produce a ‘squeak’. The head is covered with a painting of a chrysanthemum.

NOTE: Both Yajirou ad Togutta dolls are sometimes created with loose rings circling the waists. Literally carved from the same wood as the body, a very meticulous method! This treatment is referred to as 'Yamiyo' style kokeshi. It is also seen on Tsuchiyu dolls, though very rarely.

Notable artists:

Oohara Masayoshi
Asakura Kinu, b. 1918
Asakura Eiji, Master
Midorikawa Masando, b. 1926
Sato Tetsuro, Grand Master