Unusual Japanese Kijiyama Kokeshi Container with Child by Takahashi, Yuji


Dimensions: 9-3/4” H 0- 3-1/2”h (child)

One of the most readily recognizable of the traditional dolls is the Kijiyama type, from the region of the same name in the Akita Prefecture. The name is derived from the woodworkers (Kiji-shi), who live in the remote mountains of the Tohoku region.

Offered is a Kokeshi which was made as a gift, (Omiyage) for a daughter by a Mother who was vacationing in Northern Japan. The design emphasizes the cultural importance of Family specifically Mother and Child and was created in the early 1950s.

 This exceptionally unusual treatment of a traditional doll focuses on the fact that it was made as a container in which the figure separates to show a small miniature child inside. This Kijiyama appears to have the traditional one-piece body with high shoulders. It is a two-piece construction in which the center of the figure separates. She is wearing a red and black vertical striped yukata, which some refer to as a kimono, with an apron-like element (maedare), over her base clothing. Her head was in the shape of an inverted egg, with solid black hair and bangs. She has the typical style face for this family of Kokeshi: a round nose, (Maru-Bata), and wide-open all-black eyes, (Tsubushi-me). Finally, her face is finished with a small mouth/lips in red. 

NOTE: An interesting element is incorporated into the child figure. Her feathered hair and side fringes and specifically the tuft of hair on the back of the head cascading down the back has long had a social, religious, erotic, and psychological significance. For the Buddhist woman, one of the most important aspects is their hair. This long tuft of hair has the purpose of being a perch for gods and is known as the “YORISIRO” phenomenon which is a Shinto concept of “purity”.

On the back of each doll is his signature and at the right is its identification. Mr. Ogura passed in 1998 at the age of 91, (1906-1998). In his later years, the Ogura's family members would make the dolls and he would complete all the artwork on the body although this piece is one of his earliest in which he completed both the construction and graphics related to the doll. He was a very famous and popular artist for which his dolls are still very much collected and prized.

 See additional writings on our website related to this subject: Under our Browse and Learn section, please refer to https://mingeiarts.com/collections/kijiyama-kei-family for full details on the history and development of this style doll. Also, see https://mingeiarts.com/blogs/celebration-of-mingei-journey-through-japan/vintage-japanese-spiritually-inspired-kokeshi-and-figures-creating-images-to-nourish-thought for thoughts on the” Yorisiro” phenomenon.

Condition: Excellent, original condition, with no fading or loss of color, with a rich chestnut hue, which adds a warm and inviting aesthetic to the piece. The doll is consistent with the age and standards of collectible Kijiyama Family dolls. All details are perfect and as crafted.