Vintage Traditional Kokeshi
Sakunami-Kei (Family) | Hiraga, Teruyuki
Descriptive qualities& condition:
Dimensions: 6-0” h
This doll is quite unusual because of the carving treatment executed throughout the doll. The original Sakunami doll began as a very thin doll, which could hardly stand up. Later the dolls began to have thicker bodies but still with characteristics of the slender originals. Shown is an expressive face with individually drawn bangs and tuffs of hair surrounding the face. Her eyes are categorized as Double Lid; the nose is an elongated tear drop nose that is totally filled in with black as are the other details of her face with a tiny red dot that represents her mouth. The motif represents a Chrysanthemum with the dominant colors of red and green. The most unique element is the “chattering of her expressive hat that has a red top knot to finish off the piece.
Vintage Condition: The piece is in pristine condition, (“as is”). and retains the original craft/workmanship and commensurate with age. Any discoloration, chipping/cracking, surface wear, or structural damage is noted.
Unique to this strain of the original ten traditional types is the fact that the Yamagata Kokeshi originated at Sakunami Onsen in Miyagi Prefecture, and produced by the Kobayashi family. The Kobayashi family later moved to the city of Yamagata in the prefecture of the same name. However, the Hiraga family stayed in Sakunami and continued producing the same style doll, which is why these Kokeshi are made in two different locations. Because there are two very different body shapes in this group, many people consider them separately, but due to the confusion over who actually created the first of this type, we will discuss them as one family.
Collector's note – characteristics/painting style:
Both shapes are made of one piece of wood, and plum and crab-flower chrysanthemum, (Kiku), blossoms dominate the body design. The flowers are usually painted in a very bold, stylized design in colours of red and dark green, and painted or grooved bands will ring the top and the bottom of the dolls. The dolls have disproportionately larger heads, but while the Yamagata doll has a very slender body, the later Sakunami dolls have wide upper bodies, and very narrow bases. Both look quite top-heavy, leading some people to assume that originally they were much smaller, and designed to be hand-held toys, rather than freestanding dolls.
Indeed, these dolls are one of the older Kokeshi forms, as they date to the early Meiji period, (1868-1912). Another unique feature of the Sakunami dolls is the fact they are only made from Mizuki, a very pale, fine-grained variety of dogwood, which grows in the Yamagata area.
Hiraga Tadashi, b. 1937
Hiraga Kenjiro, Master
Kobayashi Koutaro, b. 1936
Kobayashi Eizo, Master
Kobayashi Seitaro, Grand Master
Reviews & CommentsLeave a new review or comment →
– Sandra Shrubb
The Rice Merchant ivory okimono arrived in perfect condition as usual, Michael and Robert. It immediately becomes the centerpiece of our antique Japanese ivory collection. Visually and tactilely, it is a superb piece of art. We marveled at the detail in the grains of rice, the rice baskets, and his heavy coat. The carving of the hands and feet, the little bird hoping for a grain of rice to drop to the feet of the merchant, and the merchant’s happy face all contribute to the total effect. Then when we picked it up, we could feel the texture of the baskets, coat, and rice. Many thanks to you, Robert and Michael, for finding such beauty and art in a piece less than six inches tall. Thank you also for the history lesson on rice merchants, valuable background of the type you include with all purchases. Collecting items of this type has long been a goal of my wife and me. We wanted something from the Japanese culture to pass on to our children and grandchildren because they are quickly getting away from their background. We did not dare take a chance on acquiring these beautiful and valuable art pieces from just anyone. But one day we happened into Vermillion, your shop in Carmel. Both of us felt something good about you–trust. When we discovered a box with some beautiful netsuke, we, without hesitation, bought two of them, thus beginning our antique ivory collection. Through your assistance we have created a very good collection. We have every confidence in your judgment, expertise, and evaluation of Japanese folk art. We have never been disappointed.
In Japan, it seems, a topic’s popularity is commensurate with the number of books available at the bookstore about said topic. For instance, bookstores in this country are full of volumes on poetry, railroads, architecture, cooking, plants, bugs, hiking, mountains, and so forth. The fact that there are almost no books available on Kokeshi sadly reveals a general lack of interest in this wonderful craft. However, there are some available if one knows where to look. For books in English, there is only one that I am aware of: A relatively new book from the United States that’s still available entitled Kokeshi: Wooden Treasures of Japan by Michael Evans and Robert Wolf. I got mine new a few years ago and it’s been well worth it. For English-speaking enthusiasts this beautiful work is a must have, as it covers both traditional (dento) and creative (sosaku) kokeshi. I think it’s fair to say that this is “THE” foundational work on kokeshi in English, although there is definitely room for more detailed works in the future.
– John & Naoko
Thank you for the BEAUTIFUL kokeshi. We have been wanting a creative (sosaku) kokeshi made by Yukio Horigome, but until now have not been able to find one in good condition. His artwork and poems are wonderful and truly enhance his dolls. I really like what you have acquired here, and would love to see your entire collection after viewing your exhibition. Interesting that you specialized in “one-of-a-kind” sosaku dolls as opposed to the traditional dolls which are not as unique because of family restrictions. My staff and I really like the information you are sharing and the way in which you say it. You make it entertaining and truly educate the general public on the craft. I can’t wait to read more from you for we find so much incorrect information on other sites (particularly ebay). Most readers would not know this because they have not studied the subject or even visited Northern Japan. This is actually a wonderful web site and thank you again for the expedited service.
I recently purchased your book on Kokeshi and what a find after collecting for over 10 years with no information to base my purchases on. Now I have YOUR ILLUSTRATIVE BOOK and it has truly opened my eyes. All the associated stories and folk tales give such light to my collection. A curator at the Japanese American National Museum in LA told me about this great resource. Your book happens to be astonishingly precise although I can understand why someone else has not written a book on the subject, because all the artists producing Kokeshi remain obscure and little information available has not been translated. Your book truly did switch the light on for me personally as related to Japanese folk art.
– John G
We just received your new book, Sosaku Kokeshi: A New Look at an Old Tradition. Let us be the first to congratulate you on this superb follow-up to Kokeshi: Wooden Treasures of Japan. Your comprehensive text with its notes on the artists and the beautiful photography create a work that any collector of Kokeshi should have if they wish to develop an understanding of and knowledge about this Japanese folk art. We don’t know which is better (Does either have to be better?), the detailed textual information or the beautiful photographs. Both insist upon and rightfully demand spending time to enjoy and appreciate them. Thank you so much for adding to our appreciation of Kokeshi.
– Masakazu & Keiko Ota
Another great Kokeshi book edition. I was thrilled to see many of the Kokeshi in my collection in your book. I even found a few that I still had not been able to identify, it was nice to finally know the artisans behind my wonderful collection.
– M. Molina
Whether you are a kokeshi doll collector like I am, or exploring Japanese folk art for the first time, Sosaku Kokeshi – A New Look at an Old Tradition is a wonderful, informative resource for collectors and a lovely visual introduction to Sosaku dolls. I just purchased a copy of the book, and I could not be more pleased! With its beautiful colour photographs, signatures and profiles of the artists along with titles of the dolls, it is a well-researched, comprehensive resource. While some dolls featured in the book were familiar to me, I was also introduced to artists and dolls that I have never seen or heard of before. I was especially thrilled to discover the extensive Sosaku artist directory included at the back of the book. As a collector, Sosaku Kokeshi – A New Look at an Old Tradition and Kokeshi – Wooden Treasures of Japan have helped me to appreciate and understand my current doll collection on a whole new level. I first began collecting kokeshi in the mid 1980’s, when I bought three dolls from neighbours and long-time friends who were moving back to Japan. For a long time, I simply admired and enjoyed the dolls for their beauty without thinking any further. Years passed, and my collection grew a little more when I spent two years teaching and living in Japan. There was a turning point when I started to wonder, what is the story of each doll? Suddenly it wasn’t enough to just enjoy them; I wanted to understand them. These two books have helped me to learn so much more about kokeshi dolls, and influence my thoughts on the process of doll selection. My kokeshi collection has become more focused and personal now that I am able to recognize which dolls I am truly drawn to. Although there are many kokeshi that I may never personally own, each time I open the books, I get to experience them. In that way, these two books have become an extension of and just as much a part of my collection as the dolls that sit on my shelves.
– Karen W.
Thank you mingeiarts for sending me your recently published book on Creative Kokeshi. This is a wonderful collectors resource with loads of background and information. Last week I also received the kokeshi doll by Kobayashi that I ordered from your website. This wonderful doll now takes pride of place in our collection. As always your attention to detail and customer service is first rate.
As always, a carefully packed order arrived this morning. This Sosaku Kokeshi – Takeda, Nori Aki Kaze is a great doll. Her large attractive head and maple leaf pattern, along with the vibrant colour make this doll very intriguing. Another copy of your new book that I have ordered for my friend will be a great Christmas Present for him. Much appreciated. I have also enjoyed furthering my knowledge of Japanese Antiques and Collectibles through your website. The tour of Japan and the stunning images are marvellous. Looking forward to my next adventure with Mingei Arts.
“I came across this announcement on PBS/OPB and was quite curious about the subject and visited the exhibit:
“The art of Kokeshi doll making began in the Early 1800s, and flourished in the late 1950s, through the 60s as Creative (Sosaku) dolls. This period produced the greatest, most enduring and popular artists of the genre, with many craftsmen gaining international recognition, which has followed these prolific pioneers into the 21st Century. The late 1950s saw the movement go beyond the smaller, colorful bobble-head dolls so popular with westerners during the 1940s-early 50s, with the artists utilizing the various beautifully-grained woods available to wood workers, (kiji-shi), in many areas throughout Japan. While a number of these Sosaku Kokeshi makers trained under ‘Traditional’, (Dento), mentors/masters in the Tohoku region, (the birthplace of Kokeshi), their dolls show exciting imagination, as many of the artists came from a variety of artistic backgrounds including painting and photography. This allowed for immediate acceptance by the public, for the dolls were considered unique works of art. The dolls are larger and more elegant, and in many cases, the different woods comprised the clothing and hair treatments, with the incorporation of different methods of carving and painting techniques. Today, Sosaku Kokeshi dolls are more popular than ever, supporting the transnational and transmedia movement of Anime and toy design seen throughout the world”. What an exceptional and inspiring exhibition. You’ve made my day! Thx again!”
WONDERFUL exposition. The Sosaku Kokeshi of artist-made wooden dolls and toys is exceptional. We found the pieces and the research associated with the various craftsmen extremely helpful. Josephine Bridges article on “Dignified dolls,” in the Asian Reporter was a great compliment to the exhibit and this extensive collection. We’ve only seen the traditional kokeshi and had no idea that Japanese Creative artisans made such individual artistic pieces. The artwork on each doll is literally like a unique painting historically recording the Japanese culture. Thank you for your fine work and this educational experience.
In this grand scheme of things you’ll get an “A” with regard to your research and associated folk art. The Shiwan ware I recently purchased is one of the most beautiful pieces I have purchased in over 10 years. The information you provided was excellent, the piece is in mint condition as advertised, with a subject matter I did not have in my collection. In all the years I have been traveling to China this was a treasure to find. Should you ever find a book in English on the subject of Shiwan history, lore and legend please contact me for we would love to have a reference in Chaminade’s design library. There are only a few books in China, always in Chinese, and unaffordable.
We are not passionate collectors of Kokeshi; we are collectors with some passion. We are not long-time collectors of these wooden dolls; we are collectors who hope to be collecting for some time and when finished, hope to pass on this love to our granddaughters. Actually, we started collecting Kokeshi only a short time ago with the expert guidance of Michael and Robert. Beginning with a goal of three or four dolls for each of our granddaughters, we almost immediately changed our goal after we purchased the first one and fell irresistibly in love with this Japanese folk art. We have amassed a small collection that we display proudly. In spite of our limited background and only a little research to support our evaluation, Sosaku Kokeshi: A New Look at an Old Tradition is a magnificent work on the subject of these wooden dolls which make up a segment of the folk arts of Japan. The detailed background materials on the artists and the notes on the dolls can be an invaluable part of one’s collection. The marvelous photography is an excellent complement to the text, as we re-viewed the images many times, envying the owner of each doll. In summary, collectors of Kokeshi who wish to expand their knowledge on this subject would do well to add Sosaku Kokeshi as well as its predecessor, Kokeshi: Wooden Treasures of Japan, both rare on this subject, to their collection of dolls.
Hi, Mingeiarts! Just want to say MAHALO — love my new jewelry box!! Yes, you read that right: I wanted this tobacco box to hold my modest collection of jewelry! I tend to march to the beat of a different drummer most of the time, and I often repurpose items. When I saw this lovely Japanese box you were selling, I thought “bingo!” — perfect!! So, many thanks… and I hope to occasionally purchase an item now and then now that I know about you! Kristi
I received your delightful Kokeshi book, and I am very grateful to have discovered this beautiful publication. I love the artistic publishing format and the washi paper. The photographs are singular elegant portraits. It is wonderful you have included the calligraphy kanji signature of the craftsman, as important as the beautiful painted dolls. Kokeshi: Wooden Treasures of Japan is a reference that gives provenance to my small treasured collection and a guide in my search for more. Exciting to also discover a few of mine already in your book. Many thanks again for gifting this special kokeshi edition and I hope to continue to share the joy.
I hope that you guys are well! big hug to you both.
– Martha Lynn
Oh my goodness! She has arrived and she is divine!
She was beautifully packed and arrived safe and sound. She is so gorgeous and I thank you so much for all that you have done along the way. You provide such a professional yet also personable business and it was a delight dealing with you.
Thank you for bringing such gorgeous items to our attention – these Kokeshis are ‘works of art’ and we are lucky to be able to purchase them and bring them into our lives and homes.
I had to send you a photo of her with her new family and I have to say, as you predicted, she fits in beautifully.
I shall keep an eye on your website for further ‘treasures’.
The lucky owner of ‘Pigtails’ by Ishihara, Hideo
Thank you for your attention and guidance to a new mingei collector. Both your publication and mingei are outstanding, your packing is perfect and shipping prompt.
MINGEI ARTS CAN’T BE BEAT!
Got the vase over the weekend. Really beautiful. Somehow this medium really speaks to me, at least the objects where most everything is in different shades of brown. Very appealing. Yes, too bad I missed out on the ginger jars you had for sale. Ah well, it’s all OK in the universe. And what clever use of materials for safe packing!
You sure did make my day!!! I received the book and have been immersed in it. Thank you again! When I got the book out of the envelope, I turned the book to the back side and opened it up and let it open to where ever it wanted, and it opened to my ALL TIME favorite artist, Sanpei Yamanaka. Talk about serendipity. I loved that you have several of his kokeshi in the book. I know this is weird, but since I was little, when I get a new book, I go to the back and open it to quickly look through it. But to have it open to Sanpei Yamanaka, … it was great. Thank you so much for such a generous thing you have done in creating the book, and I truly appreciate it.
– Mary Beth
I have several items from Robert & Michael’s collection now and they all hold a special place in my home and warm my heart when I see them. Something about the art from Japan just makes me feel at peace and also comforted. Shopping through the items in this store is like treasure hunting, without the hunting.