Traditional Tsuchiyu Kokeshi
If you have been to Japan, you must have seen a Kokeshi doll. Nowadays Kokeshi is manufactured and sold in most tourist area in Japan.
However, many Kokeshi dolls these days are "modernized" - they are modelled, designed, and manufactured differently from the authentic and traditional Kokeshi dolls.
Traditional Kokeshi dolls are now made only in the Tohoku area, which is the north-eastern part of Japan. There are many places in the Tohoku area where Kokeshi dolls are made as a special product of the region, and Tsuchiyu is one of such place.
Brief History of Tsuchiyu Kokeshi
Tsuchiyu is famous for its hot spring resorts but there are few visitors in the winter, which lasts for one third of the year and there is a lot of snow.
As a result, people have to do something else during the winter time for a livelihood, and they started making Kokeshi dolls 160 years ago.
Brief Introduction of our "Takumi"
Kazuei Abe was born in 1937.
His father, Hiroshi Abe, is one of the most famous Kokeshi craftsmen in Japan.
Following the footstep of his father, Kazuei started learning the craft of making Kokeshi when he was just 11 years old. He decided to take over as the 3rd generation of Kokeshi craftsman at the age of 16.
He tries not only to adopt the style of his famous father but also to establish a style of his own. His creations can be seen on display as "Kokeshi master pieces" in many stores in Japan.
The Character of Tsuchiyu Kokeshi
Kokeshi dolls made in different regions in Japan have their own unique style and character. The Kokeshi dolls made in Tsuchiyu are cute. The head is small, the painting is colorful, the expression is gentle and in general the doll is very feminine-looking.
These days, attracted by its Kokeshi dolls, many foreign people visit Tsuchiyu.
Tsuchiyu Kokeshi ? The Special Technique
The technique and skills of making Kokeshi dolls, such as carving, painting and finishing, have been handed down from fathers to sons and from masters to apprentices throughout the years.
Many different tools are being used when making Kokeshi like Tokusa which was originally used as a toothbrush in Japan. Now the Kokeshi craftman uses it as a "Kokeshibrush".
Usually wood of dogwood and pear trees (mizuki and nashi in Japanese) is used.
Because of the nature of the wood, the older the Kokeshi doll, the more "mature" and "ripened" its wooden body will become, making its coloring more vivid and sophisticated.
Very old Kokeshi are considered antiques and some are priced as high as US$1,000 or more in Japan.
One day, maybe yours will be worth US$1,000 as well!
Watch the Kokeshi Making Technique Live!
Tsuchiyu Kokeshi - Step-by-Step Explanation
Firstly, the craftsman makes the head of the doll.
After affixing a piece of wood onto the rotating wheel, he carves the wood using five kinds of chisels, then brushes and polishes it with four kinds of sandpapers and Tokusa.
Using a brush, he then paints the hair onto the head of the doll.
Because the wheel is rotating, all he has to do is to put the tip of the brush on one point of the head, without having to move his hand.
Next is the making of the body. He affixes another piece of wood onto the wheel and first carves out the shape of the body with a larger chisel.
With a smaller chisel, he begins to carve out the details. Then he drills a hole on top into which the head will be inserted.
The next step is to finish and polish the body using the "Plane".
Four kinds of sandpapers and Tokusa are used to polish the body. That's why the finished body is so smooth.
With the wheel still rotating, the craftsman puts the brush on different points of the body, and amazingly the body is suddenly dressed in a range of colors.
According to the craftsman, inserting the head into the body is one of the most difficult tasks in Kokeshi making. Drilling, carving, and checking the hole 3 times, he inserts the head into the rotating body with the help of frictional heat.
The last task is painting the face.
Making any mistake at this stage means ruining all his previous efforts.
But then a Takumi doesn't make mistakes!
Precious Gift for Your Precious Loved Ones
The Kokeshi dolls make the perfect gift for someone you love and care about, because each one of them is made to order. Your special friends and loved ones will no doubt be glad to receive such a "one-and-only" gift hand-made in Japan.
To make your gift even more personal and unique, we offer to put the name of the recipient and/or the date on the doll. The name will be written in the traditional Japanese calligraphy style. You can choose English or Japanese Kanji, Katakana, Hiragana style, and if you choose Japanese, we'll translate the name to Japanese. (This free-of-charge offer applies to medium or larger sized dolls only.)
Please also tell your friends about this website and our one-and-only Takumi who makes the beautiful Tsuchiyu Kokeshi dolls.
Kanji: Chinese character
Every Kanji has its own unique meaning. Every attempt will be made to choose Kanji with good meanings for you.
John in Kanji is. Peter in Kanji is .
Micheal in Kanji is . Paul in Kanji is .
Susan in Kanji is . Jennifer in Kanji is .
Anna in Kanji is . Julia in Kanji is .
Non-Japanese names and foreign words are normally written in Katakana.
John in Katakana is. Peter in Katakana is .
Micheal in Katakana is . Paul in Katakana is .
Susan in Katakana is . Jennifer in Katakana is .
Anna in Katakana is . Julia in Katakana is .
Hiragana is a more stylized form of Japanese writing. Hiragana is used more frequently than Kanji and Katakana in Japanese writing.
John in Hiragana is. Peter in Hiragana is .
Micheal in Hiragana is . Paul in Hiragana is .
Susan in Hiragana is . Jennifer in Hiragana is .
Anna in Hiragana is . Julia in Hiragana is .
Precious Gift for New Born Babies
In the northern part of Japan, a new born baby is given a Kokeshi doll.
The height of the doll will be equal to the length of the new born baby. You can now order Kokeshi dolls for your new born children, grandchildren, god-children...!!! The custom-made doll will be the same length as the baby, and the baby"s name, birth date, length, and weight will be brush-written on the doll in the traditional Japanese calligraphy style. (For products marked "for new born babies" only)
What a wonderful gift to celebrate and remember the magic moment of the start of a new life!