Vintage Interactive Toy Train (Shochan)

Rare Vintage Japanese Pull Wooden Train Engine, (Shochan Car) Toy with Yajirou Engineer | Kijigangu | Tsuta Fumio


Descriptive qualities& condition:

Dimensions: 6-1/2”h x 3-1/2”w x 6–1/4”l 

Maybe it's because wooden toys harken back to the days before mass-produced plastic, and is a direct connection between forest surrounding the Japanese countryside and the local culture. This wonderful Kijigangu, (wooden toy), represents a Shochan Car or Train Engine, with a Yajirou Child Engineer, whose head moves back and forth while the wheels turn as the piece is pulled across the floor. The character became famous during the Taisho period in which the Shochan boy is represented with a gentle and cute face painted in the standard colors for this period.

This toy was made in the earlier years of the Tsutaya family of toy makers, who achieved numerous awards for their wood toys and was the most recognized in this specialization.

Vintage condition: Very good, with minimal surface wear on the back of the figure from aging for a fifty year old pull toy. “As is”, and retains the original craft & workmanship. Any discoloration, chipping/cracking, surface wear or structural damage is noted. 

NOTE: Tsuta Family—Grandfather Sakuzuo (1892-1957), Father Mamoru (1928-2009), and son Fumio (1944-), handed down toy making from generation to generation and have been producing for over 100 years. Son, Fumio, continues to produce and sell their creations at the Onogawa Onsen, Yamagata Prefecture, since the beginning of this family enterprise.

Japanese toy makers changed the stagnant fixed toy with their amazing interactive and mechanical toys representing three-dimensional images of animals and children playing. The majority of the toys are pull and action figures.

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