Vintage Traditional Kokeshi

Japanese Traditional Yajiro Kokeshi by Sato, Seikou


b.Late 1960s

Descriptive qualities& condition:

Dimensions: 10-0” h

Offered is an extremely expressive and jovially celebratory Kokeshi, all lathe-turned and hand-painted by the artist who signed the piece on the bottom of the doll. One characteristic feature of the Yajiro strain is said to be the head with a multi-colored cap-like pattern painted with a Rokuro (a lathe) with decorated side hair fringes. The body of this doll ungulates in width with a broader base for stability. Here the waist is accentuated with a colored band relief and shows a combination of hand-painted decoration and multi-colored Rokoru Mayo horizontal lines. A simple eye is referred to as “Hitoe-mabuta” (single-lid) where the eye is drawn with a single curved line with an eyeball underneath with a prominent eyebrow above. It has what is referred to as a “Bachi-Bana” (shortened drum-stick) nose and accentuated red mouth. And finally, the most unusual aspect of this particular doll is its red cheeks which is a signature feature of this artist. The doll is signed, has his impressed stamp by the artist on the bottom.

Condition:  Excellent, very refined doll in its original condition and well preserved for its age. It is beautiful and well-formed, with excellent proportions with wonderful hand painting. 

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