Vintage Traditional Kokeshi

Vintage Sakunami Traditional Kokeshi by 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.

Japanese Traditional Kokeshi | Yamagata-Sakunami-Kei (Family)

Prefecture: Miyagi


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.

Notable artists:

Hiraga Tadashi, b. 1937
Hiraga Kenjiro, Master
Kobayashi Koutaro, b. 1936
Kobayashi Eizo, Master
Kobayashi Seitaro, Grand Master