Vintage Traditional Kokeshi

Vintage Yajirou Traditional Kokeshi by Sato, Koichi


Descriptive qualities& condition:

Dimensions: Container  - 9-3/4” h; Smaller Doll – 5-0”h; miniature Doll – 3-0”h

This very rare and unusual doll was designed to show a creative interpretation of the traditional family doll. It consists of two containers, (one large, one small), each containing an exact replica of the outer doll. One characteristic feature of the Yajiro kokeshi is the head with a multi-colored bob or chignon with a Rokoru -Moyo pattern painted on a lathe to create perfectly rendered lines. It has a straight, beautifully painted body. The waist shows line work of different colors to accentuate the simulated obi. The neck and bottom of the doll further simulates a kimono. Her eyes are called Hitoe-Mabuta, (single-lid) with eyebrows, a simple eye drawn with a single curved line with an eyeball underneath. It is a wonderfully complex piece and is signed on the bottom of the main container.

Vintage Condition: This double kokeshi container, including each doll, is in pristine condition, (“as is”), and retains the original craft/workmanship and commensurate with age. Any discoloration, chipping/cracking, surface wear, or structural damage is noted.

Japanese Traditional Kokeshi | Yajirou-Kei (Family)

Prefecture: Miyagi


The creators of these dolls hail from the small farming village of Yajirou-machi near Kamasaki Onsen in Miyagi Prefecture, once a farming village between two, tall mountains. The kiji-shi (woodworkers), divided their time between farming and wood-craft. Those who made kokeshi in their spare time sent their wives to the nearby Kamasaki Onsen to sell their work to tourist shops and through onsens.

Collector's note – characteristics/painting style:

The majority of this style has distinct waists and wider bases, making them very stable. Yajirou dolls are some of the most brightly painted of the traditional family set. Utilizing a veritable rainbow of colours, from the usual red and black to green, yellow, and even blue and purple, they are available in probably the widest range of shapes. The upper body usually has a hand-painted collar with horizontal stripes encircling the body, as in the Rokoru moyo style, and vertical stripes running below the waist to the base of the doll. However, Yajirou dolls can also be found with a series of chrysanthemum petals running down the front of the body, or a branch of plum blossoms as the only decoration. Some, also have a painted beret-like feature or a bun on their heads, similarly painted with a red center spot. Less common are Yajirou that have conical hats known as Suge-Gasa. Typically seen is one lid or double eyelids, cat or pick shaped nose. Yajirou kokeshi have been made from cherry wood, camellia, and maple, but the preferred wood is white dogwood, (mazuki).

NOTE: Both Yajirou ad Togutta dolls are sometimes created with loose rings circling the waists. Literally carved from the same wood as the body, a very meticulous method! This treatment is referred to as 'Yamiyo' style kokeshi. It is also seen on Tsuchiyu dolls, though very rarely.

Notable artists:

Satou Denki, b. 1909
Satou Dennai, Master
Ishikawa Tokujiro, b. 1915
Niiyama Fukutaro, Master
Sato Tatsuro, b. 1928
Sato Imasaburo, Master
Hamatsu Heizaburo, b. 1933
Niiyama Sanai, MasterYajirou
Niiyama Yoshinori, b. 1960
Niiyama Yoshitaro, Grand Master