Vintage Sosaku Kokeshi

Japanese Vintage Wooden Yukiyake Kokeshi Dolls by Yamaguchi Minoru


Age:1980s

Descriptive qualities& condition:

Dimensions: 11-0”h; 10-1/2”h

The human figure is important in Kokeshi craft, and wood may be one of the oldest and most commonplace art materials for Kokeshi making. Offered are two absolutely beautiful Kokeshi made from Yakusugi wood, (Cedar/Cryptomeria), from ancient trees on the island of Yakushima, Japan, and firmly rooted in nature. These beautiful, lathe-turned dolls are all one-of-a-kind creations using lathe techniques to produce these folk wooden dolls. Each figure is a unique abstract representation of the human form (female/male), and displays a pronounced head, elongated neck, waist, and lower body. They are turned from one piece of wood, with no dowels or joinery. Both dolls are simply varnished to enhance the beautiful graining of Yakusugi that gives them character, dimension, and a beautiful gloss, affording a soothing visual and tactile warmth of the wood. There is no applied ornamentation tied to the production of these dolls. Each piece is signed by the artist Yamaguchi Minoru (1930-1998).

Condition: Excellent, as-made condition, with no flaws or deterioration, with a beautiful natural patina. Each has a slight cedar fragrance.

NOTE: Woodcarvers of Yukiyaki Kokeshi do not harvest living Yakusugi trees, for cutting down these trees is prohibited by law. The leftover wood used for these rare dolls is called "domain-boku", and are from trees that were naturally blown down by typhoon or strong wind because these trees grow on thin soil above granite. The trees are resin-rich, and because of the quality of the wood repurposed by the arts and crafts community.

UNESCO added Yakushima Island to the list of natural World Heritage sites in 1993, and it was registered for Japan's first World Natural Heritage. Only 1000 years old cedar can be called "Yakusugi (Yaku cedar tree)."