Vintage Traditional Kokeshi

Japanese Traditional Kokeshi | Yajirou-Kei (Family) Doll by Niiyama, Fukuo



Descriptive qualities& condition:

Dimensions: 15-3/4”h

What an exceptional find in museum quality condition. This Kokeshi was crafted and painted by Hisashi Niiyama who was born i n 1915 and apprenticed under his father Kyuji Niiyama and followed in his tradition of turning Yajirou dolls. 

As common with this style of Kokeshi it has a distinctly narrow waist line and wider bases. This Yajirou utilizes a veritable rainbow of colors, from the usual red, purple, blue and green, and in a very unusual undulating form. The upper body has a hand-painted collar with horizontal stripes encircling the neck and body with simple brush stokes in green on the bodice. These Rokoru moyo style horizontal red stripes continue below the waist, terminating at the base with red vertical line work. The top of the head shows red, purple rings with a green center spot on the top of the skull with painted beret-like feature with side hair fringes framing the face. The face is detailed with expressive one lid or double eyelids, cat nose and red lips. The doll is lathe-turned from one piece of cherry wood. The piece is signed on the bottom in script by the artist.

Condition: Excellent and commensurate with age with no fading of the painted motif. Wonderful workmanship, turning and painted features. Fine example of the Yajirou-kei Family of Kokeshi. 

Japanese Traditional Kokeshi | Yajirou-Kei (Family)

Prefecture: Miyagi


The creators of these dolls hail from the small farming village of Yajirou-machi near Kamasaki Onsen in Miyagi Prefecture, once a farming village between two, tall mountains. The kiji-shi (woodworkers), divided their time between farming and wood-craft. Those who made kokeshi in their spare time sent their wives to the nearby Kamasaki Onsen to sell their work to tourist shops and through onsens.

Collector's note – characteristics/painting style:

The majority of this style has distinct waists and wider bases, making them very stable. Yajirou dolls are some of the most brightly painted of the traditional family set. Utilizing a veritable rainbow of colours, from the usual red and black to green, yellow, and even blue and purple, they are available in probably the widest range of shapes. The upper body usually has a hand-painted collar with horizontal stripes encircling the body, as in the Rokoru moyo style, and vertical stripes running below the waist to the base of the doll. However, Yajirou dolls can also be found with a series of chrysanthemum petals running down the front of the body, or a branch of plum blossoms as the only decoration. Some, also have a painted beret-like feature or a bun on their heads, similarly painted with a red center spot. Less common are Yajirou that have conical hats known as Suge-Gasa. Typically seen is one lid or double eyelids, cat or pick shaped nose. Yajirou kokeshi have been made from cherry wood, camellia, and maple, but the preferred wood is white dogwood, (mazuki).

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:

Satou Denki, b. 1909
Satou Dennai, Master
Ishikawa Tokujiro, b. 1915
Niiyama Fukutaro, Master
Sato Tatsuro, b. 1928
Sato Imasaburo, Master
Hamatsu Heizaburo, b. 1933
Niiyama Sanai, MasterYajirou
Niiyama Yoshinori, b. 1960
Niiyama Yoshitaro, Grand Master