Vintage Sosaku Kokeshi
Vintage Sosaku Kokeshi entitled: “San'en no byōsha | Three Wise Monkeys” by Miyajima, Muhitsu
Descriptive qualities& condition:
Dimensions: 6-0"h (each doll)
Japanese Buddhist monks in China brought the proverb, “mizaru, kikazaruin, iwazaru” to Japan, which led to the association of the saying of the ‘three wise monkeys’, which were often represented in Buddhist sculptures. They are said to be companions of the folk deity, Shōmen-Kongō. The proverb means ‘hear not, say not, see not’. The “Three Wise Monkeys,” were additionally depicted throughout Japanese temple architecture, representing the Confucius principle of the ‘things that one has done wrong in the last 59 days’, encouraging the citizenry not to experience the bad deeds of others.
Shown is a very rare set of three wooden, abstract representations of “Maiko”, (woman of dance), dressed in beautifully- formed wooden Kimono. These were made specifically to fit together as a set, to complement the historic saying known in many countries. Miyajima-san, in this case, preferred to work in heavy, dark Enju wood, (Pagoda Tree), because of the rich colors and expressive grain. Each doll is crafted to make it appear as if the exterior clothing is a separate element from the body with its expressive face. Each doll is individually signed.
Vintage Condition: Pristine, excellent condition affording the doll age-old elegance. Retains the original craft/workmanship showing a wonderfully-developed patina commensurate with age and unrestored. The piece meets all the standards of Sosaku Kokeshi collectibles.... Read more
Born in Yonezawa City, Iwate, Miyashita-san studied traditional kokeshi making under Yamagata-Sakunami Master artist Kobayashi Kichitaro. He began his Sosaku career in 1959, winning many awards, including the Prime Minister’s Award in 1977. Crown Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako purchased his culturally sensitive dolls in 1969. His studio was located in Maebashi City of Gunma Prefecture, but after it was consumed by fire in 2006, Miyashita-san retired.
Collector's note – descriptive qualities, standard characteristics & ornamentation styles:
Miyashita-san was known for his seasonal themes, such as the period of transition from spring to summer known as ‘tsuyu’, which means ‘rainy season. Traditional umbrellas (Wagasa), are atypical, and rarely used in Kokeshi creations, except for Miyashita’s designs. He also depicts Kabuki dancers known as Kagamijishi, which is a shortened name of the Kabuki dance called the “shunkyo Kagamijishi”. Depicting the Lion dance characters, (Mai, in this instance), was an additional theme for this artist, for it portrayed the spirit of the lion, which is a contrast between the elegant feminity and the dynamic masculine power of the lion's spirit. Miyashita-san depicts brides in traditional wedding attire. One is detailed in a Uchikake, (Brocade), Kimono with traditional motifs, (chrysanthemums and cranes). Her head is adorned with a traditional cover called a Tsuno-kakushi, which refers to the “hiding the horns of jealousy”, and symbolizes a prayer for the marital accord. And finally, he breaks from the traditional kokeshi form with a later doll showing oversized arms and feet.
Additionally, Miyashita-san created a series of Yukata and Festival Garment Kokeshi shown above. The name Yukata comes from the word ‘yu’, (bath), and ‘Katabira’, (under clothing). Yukata are draped loosely over the body for comfort, (figure on the right). This all began over 1,000 years ago when people wore it to and from the bath. Yukata is a garment that the Japanese have invested a great deal of ingenuity in developing, as it is an ideal casual wear for bathing. Kokeshi dolls have traditionally been sold at Japanese Inns, (Ryokan). Today, the Yukata and Festival Garments are also worn in Bon-Odori dance festivals and competitions throughout Japan. The majority are made of dogwood, and display different graphic patterns, with either a unique obi or sash, which is also simulated in wood. The hair designs also illustrate the diversity of individual tastes of the period.
One of the most beautiful pieces I have purchased in over 10 years
I recently purchased 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.
Delightful and well written book
Just downloaded my ebook on Sosaku Kokeshi. Excellent and so excited to see that you transposed the hardbound version. Exceptional large color images with great descriptions and details. It is so nice to have a copy I can carry when touring and when I am on-line shopping for Kokeshi. Also nice not to have to pay for international shipping.
A great doll
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.
You did the subject justice
Vintage Kokeshi and its history is absolutely a topic thats close to my heart, so Im pleased that you wrote about it. Im also happy that you did the subject justice bringing the history of these creative artifacts to light. Not only do you know a great deal about it, you know the way to present the subject in a way that individuals will wish to read far more. Im so happy to know a person/site like you exists on the internet. I understand you are writing a book on Sosaku Kokeshi artists. That will be high on my list for there is nothing in English on the subject, and I am worried that the craftsmen and their creations will be lost as Japan becomes more western in attitude. Doomo arigato gozaimasu from Japan.
Truly opened my eyes
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.
Detailed textual information & beautiful photographs
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.
Another great Kokeshi book edition
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.
My kokeshi collection has become more focused and personal now that I am able to recognize which dolls I am truly drawn to
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.
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. 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.
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.
After we purchased the first one, we fell irresistibly in love
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.
I love my new jewelry box!!
Just want to say MAHALO — love my new jewelry box!! 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!
Delightful Kokeshi book
I received your delightful Kokeshi book, and I am very grateful to have discovered this beautiful publication. 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. Your book 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.
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’.
Mingei Arts can't be beat!
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.
Got the vase over the weekend. 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!
Shopping through the items in this store is like treasure hunting, without the hunting.
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.
I could not be happier with my three new Kokeshi
Your time and personal attention was gratefully appreciated. I could not be happier with my three new Kokeshi – I have them displayed where I pass by often so I can stop and look at them – they always bring a smile to my face! They make me HAPPY! I also love your book and eBook. Thank you so much!
Opened my eyes to the diversity and beauty of an amazing art form
It wasn’t until I got your book that I realized what I had been missing these past years! Now I am totally addicted.
Great spinning top
I purchased a vintage spinning top for a gift, and I absolutely love it! The ordering process was fast and easy, and the item was in the condition described on the website.
Thank you for sending this book to me
It is beautiful, so informative and stunning pictures. Well done to you both for producing this. Any wonder so many people around the world love it. I will love using it as my reference book. You have both been so lovely to deal with……I look to you both as experts in all things Kokeshi and Japanese art, and look forward to our continued friendship across the world.