Vintage Japanese Traditional Tsuchiyu Family Kokeshi by Watanabe, Kazuo
This extremely tall Tsuchiyu-kei kokeshi from the Fukushima Prefecture has a columnar body, tapering right where the neck would be. The most unique feature of this doll is the “Rokuru Moyo” style of circular painting in alternating red and green. The artists of this type are famous for being the most accomplished in circular style painting, and in this case, steps which took further artistic talent reversing the line with by incorporating zig-zagging the lines periodically adding a dynamic element to this doll. Additionally is the addition of nature with abstract flowers, grasses, and birds flying in red, green, and purple on the body of the doll. The head has a black lined Janome pattern, also known as the snake-eye on the top of the head, leaving the center open and surrounded with a red floral motif, (commonly seen on the tops of the paper and lacquered umbrellas, (Kasa) of the period. The head is an egg form, with the face incorporating futae-mabuta, (double lid) eyes, and a tare-bata, (long nose) culminating in smiling lips and a red tongue. The piece is titled and signed on the bottom of the doll and a carver who was a student of Master: Sakura Yoshio- 1940s). Additionally, the piece was featured in the book, Kokeshi Wooden Treasures of Japan, published in 2025, which has sold over 5,000 copies since its publication.
See additional writings on our website related to this subject: Under our Browse and Learn section, please refer to https://mingeiarts.com/collections/tsuchiyu-kei-family for full details on the history and development of this style doll.
Condition: Excellent and beautiful condition affording the doll age-old elegance. Retains the original craft/workmanship showing a wonderfully-developed untouched patina commensurate with age. “You will not see another doll of this type and quality” on the market. The piece meets all the standards of Traditional Kokeshi collectibles and is an exceptional piece for collectors of Tsuchiyu Family dolls.
Tsuchiyu Family dolls originated in the 1840s at Tsuchiyu Onsen in Fukushima Prefecture, with the work of Sakuma Kamegoro, a kiji-shi who had made various wood items for visitors to the Tsuchiyu Onsen.
Collector's note – characteristics / painting style:
These dolls come in two types: one with a slightly cone-shaped body widening towards the base; and one that has a columnar body, tapering where the neck would be. The latter style is also known for the Rokuro Moyo style of circular painting. As a matter of fact, the artists of this type are famous for being the most accomplished in the circular style of painting, as they take it several steps further by either reversing the line at some point or by zig-zagging the lines periodically. Both add a dynamic element to the dolls.
The design of black, (occasionally purple or green), concentric circles on the top of the head are called Janome. Together with a red bow and a loop on the head, (kase), is one major characteristic of the Tsuchiyu Kokeshi. The innermost circle of the head is usually colorless. The patterns of the body used to be simple black lines but the lines are drawn in different colors in later models. Some dolls even have patterns of flowers between the lines. Most have eyes called futae-mabuta, (double lid), and noses called marubana, (round nose), and tare-bana, (long nose). A few dolls have consciously large eyes and noses with blushes around the eyes, similar to the Nakanosawa group).
The Tsuchiyu kiji-ya utilized snap-on and squeeze-in techniques for attaching the heads, which are then painted with a Janome pattern, leaving the center open. This is known as the ‘snake eye design, and is also commonly seen on the tops of the paper and lacquered umbrellas, (Kasa).
Saito Chushichi, b. 1917
Saito Sashima, Master
Obata Toshio, b. 1932
Obata Fukumatsu, Master
Jinohara Kouki, b. 1957
Jinohara Kazunori, b.1929
Saito Hiromichi, Master
Kamegoro Sakuma, Grand Master