Vintage Japanese ‘Takobozu’ Nakanosawa Kokeshi by Saito, Tokuju
This is traditional Nakanosawa Kokeshi of the Tsuchiyu-kei family by Saito Takuju, (1926-). His masters were Iawamoto Yoshizou and Aba Ichio. This style of Kokeshi was originally created by Iwamoto Zenkichi of the Nakanosawa Onsen. After his death, his son Yoshizou, along with other prominent craftsmen like Fukuchi, kept the Nakanosawa doll’s tradition alive.
The specific type of Kokeshi is referred to as "Tako bozu" (たこ坊主, bald boys), an octopus face with a facial expression showing humor that is representative of Iwamoto Kenichi, a street dancer, (Sutorītodansā) in the 1920s who used a cushion that had a face with large eyes painted on it. His audience was soon so taken with his dance with the pillow that they asked for a doll to be made with these special features.
This Kokeshi has a characteristically sizeable over-sized head with a small tuft of a wavy hair strand on the back which was typical of practitioners of the Zen Buddhist faith, and unique large expressive Bikkuri-me eyes, (surprised eyes) and faint reddish-to-pink blush around its eyes and an open mouth with a red tongue and the expressive Shishi-bata Lion’s nose with flared nostrils. The doll incorporates Janome black and green rings painted on the top of its head with abstract peony petals on the side with bangs. Rokoru moyo red and green bands are incorporated below the neck and lower body on the tall thin and tapering body. The painted body details large open red and black peony flowers inspired by the tattoos that the Geisha sported and exhibits all the characteristics that were painted originally on the dancer's pillow. The doll is signed by the artist on the bottom of the doll along with its title.
Condition: Excellent vintage condition and as originally made. The represented colors show no fading or discoloration with “refined and crisp” drawing/coloration on a fine wood base. Beautiful polished patina developed from age. These beguiling dolls have a special attraction to collectors because of their history and uniqueness.
See additional writings on our website related to this subject: Under our Browse and Learn section, please refer to https://mingeiarts.com/collections/nakanosowa-family for full details on the history and development of this style doll.
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The Nakanosawa doll is a member of the Tsuchiyu family. However, it is so obviously different from the rest of this family that it warrants its own description. This distinctively painted traditional doll was originally created by Iwamoto Zenkichi, in Nakanosawa Onsen, in the town of Inawashiro, Fukushima Prefecture. How they came to be created is a wonderful story. It is said that a street dancer named Iwamoto Kenichi and performed a fast tempo foot dance called a "Kappore" fore which which he gave dancing lessions to local geisha girls. He created a Kokeshi doll copied after a pillow that he used in this dance. The painted pillow from which his Kokeshi doll had facial features as well as painted bold flower patterns. His audience was soon so taken with his dance with the pillow that they asked for a doll to be made with these special features and nicknamed affectionately as a "Tako Bouzu" with characteristic large popping eyes and bold flower design.
Collector's note – characteristics / painting style:
In the beginning, the doll was made of papier maché. When Kenichi’s son began to produce the doll, it was made like the rest of the traditional Kokeshi, but retained the large, expressive eyes, over-sized head, and reddish to pink blush on each cheek, similar to that painted on the pillow. The dolls also had a very different nose, with flared nostrils, much like a lion’s nose (shishi-bana). They were usually painted in the style of the rest of the Tsuchiyu Kokeshi, with the Janome rings painted on their heads and Rokoru bands on the tall, thin and tapering bodies.
One of the more unique features still found on Nakanosawa dolls, however, are the large, open peonies, which people claim were originally inspired by the tattoos that the Geisha sported.
These dolls also have been given the humorous name of “Tako Bozo”, which translated means “an octopus with a monk’s shaven head”. After the death of Kenichi’s son Yoshizou, a group of craftsmen kept the making of the Nakanosawa doll alive. While considered a sub-strain of the Tsuchiyu Kokeshi, these beguiling dolls have a special attraction to collectors because of their history.
Seya Kouji, b. 1952
Kakizaki Fumiio, b.1947
Arakawa Youicihi, b. 1938
Sanbe Haruo, b. 1929
Takahashi, Takeo, Master
Seya, Juji, Master, b. 1924
Iwamoto Yoshizo, Grand Master