Vintage Traditional Kokeshi

Vintage Traditional Tsuchiyu Sugegasa Kokeshi by Watanabe, Sadao


b.Late, 1950s

Descriptive qualities& condition:

Dimensions: 7-1/8”h

This is a less common and very rare Tsuchiyu Kokeshi that is shown with a conical hat known as Sugegasa. Only on traditional occasions, people are still wear Japanese traditional hats. As seen in this Kokeshi the hat represents the older conical hat that is very wide-brimmed with both concentric circles in red and green on the top called Janome and mimicked lacquered umbrellas of the time, (Kasa).

The narrow, circular wide banded body is painted with red with a chrysanthemum motif in-between the banding using water-based paint, (that is why you see the fanning out of the flower detains), as opposed to oil-based which was an older method and does not lose its form. Both add a dynamic element to the dolls. This doll has eyes called futae-mabuta, (double lid), and noses called tare-bana, (long nose), and hair fringes with slight bangs framing the face. This doll is made from Kiri wood and not lacquered as his other dolls which indicates it might be an earlier version of this type. The doll is signed on the bottom by the artist.

Condition: Excellent, original condition, with no fading or loss of color and consistent with age and standards of collectible Folk Art. All details are perfect and as crafted.

NOTE: There is no other biographical information published on the artist other than he was born in 1938 and studying under his father and Master: Watanabe, Sadami born in 1917.

Japanese Traditional Kokeshi | Tsuchiyu-Kei (Family)

Prefecture: Fukushima


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).

Notable artists:

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