Vintage Sosaku Kokeshi

Vintage Japanese Hand-painted Takasago Kokeshi Inspired by Kanze Motokiyo and Signed by Kei


Descriptive qualities& condition:

Dimensions: 12-0”h x 2-1/2”dia

This wonderful vintage, lathe-turned one-of-a-kind Takasago Kokeshi, and of archival quality, and collectors find. The most unique feature is the hand painting of the renowned Takasago couple. The traditional iconography of its protagonists, (the most prominent figures in Noh Theatre), has been re-purposed in the form of this Sosaku Kokeshi. The Takasago story is a regular performance are commonly sung, at Noh theatre for it is considered an auspicious and beloved tale.

The beautifully colored painting on the front of the doll represents the elderly couple in full traditional costume, with detailed facial features, sweeping the area below a pair of majestic pine trees. According to legend, the pines and the couple are destined to remain together for eternity despite any separation. The pine is the renowned Takasago Pine on the Suminoe shore (a historic scenic beach). 

The elderly man is named Jou, (Okina), and the elderly woman is known as Uba, (Ouna), and as a couple referred to as Jotomba, who begins to recite and sing a poem that tells the story of Takasago and Suminoe. The elderly couple represents the incarnation of the spirits of the Takasago pine, the symbol par excellence of conjugal love, and a bond that transcends space and time, who as a pair then set sail across the bay on a small boat and disappear beyond the horizon.

The head of the doll has transitional facial features with a hair bow and side hair fringes. The painted work incorporated into this expressive Kokeshi honors the longevity and harmonious relationship of the old couple by comparing the blissful longevity of the pine to the eternal flowering of the art of Japanese poetry. The pine represents a very important Matsu motif in Japanese poetry and art, a symbol of health, longevity, and good luck. Since ancient times in Japan, people have believed that Gods dwell in pine trees precisely because of their evergreen nature. Being a tree that often lives exposed to wind and bad weather, surviving even on rocky terrain and mountain slopes, they embody the virtue of resistance, as well as the eternal love between the two spirits withstanding time and separation. Finally, due to its paired needles, it also refers to the concepts of fertility and marital happiness.

The most stunning aspect of this drawing is the exceptionally detailed clothing on each figure as well as all the surrounding visual elements. The presence of the majestic pine tree and interestingly enough, a cherry tree, and other recurring motifs including the broom and rake. The elderly couple is said to sweep away ill-fortune and rake in the good and desirable. All are artistically represented. The presence of two cranes, (Tsuru), in the Japanese tradition, are symbols of elegance, longevity, good luck, and marital fidelity, and are shown in flight against the backdrop of the red, rising sun. At the foot of Jou, is a turtle, (Minogame), regarded as a very auspicious creature that has made appearances in arts, crafts, and even in modern-day popular anime culture. It is said that this style of the turtle is so old it has a train of seaweed growing on its back, symbolizing longevity and felicity. The doll is signed in ink on the side of the figure by the artist using the name, Kei with an unreadable chop of the owner of the doll, (Kei created one-off Kokeshi with a focus on Noh Plays, which were presented to the lead male actor (Shite), in honor of his Takasago performances at The Yamamoto Noh Theater Osaka.

Condition: Excellent and commensurate with age, beautiful patination of the wood with some loss of the red and white painted hair bow on the top of the doll's head. No dents or restoration. Originally purchased in 1978 at the MGF Antique Auction House, Osaka.

NOTE: Zeami Motokiyo, also called Kanze Motokiyo, (c. 1363-1443), formerly known as Aioi was a Japanese aesthetician, an actor, and a playwright. His father, Kan'ami, introduced him to Noh theater performance at a young age and found that he was a skilled actor. Zeami was also skilled in acting and decided to form a family theater ensemble. As the family theater troupe grew in popularity, Zeami had the opportunity to perform in front of the Shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. The Shogun was impressed by the young actor and began to initiate a friendship with the young actor. Zeami was introduced to Yoshimitsu's court and was provided with an education in Classical Literature and Philosophy while continuing to act. In 1374, Zeami received patronage and made acting his career. After the death of his father in 1385, he led the family troupe, a role in which he found much greater success.

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Customer Reviews

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.

— dbl

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.

— Author's name

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.

— Kathy

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.

— Misugi

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.

— John G

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.

— Masakazu & Keiko Ota

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.

— M. Molina

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.

— Karen W.

WONDERFUL exposition.

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.

— TM

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.

— Koigirl

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!

— Kristi

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.

— Tania

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’.

— Karen, the lucky owner of ‘Pigtails’ by Ishihara, Hideo

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.

— Brenda

Really beautiful.

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!

— Da-Shih

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.

— Jessie

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!

— Barb

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.

— B

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.

— Carmela

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.
🙏🏻🐨💐🥂👘🌎🌏🍱 🥰

— Karen