GUIDE TO MIYAGI ZAO KOKESHI MUSEUM – In the modern Miyagi Zao Kokeshi Museum, there are many intersting areas, including an exhibition hall exhibiting Kokeshi dolls from across the country, a booth where demonstrations are given by Kokeshi artisans, an experience area where travel junkies can actually experience painting Kokeshi.

Togatta Kokeshi were developed mainly around Togatta Hot Spring, Miyagi Prefecture. Togatta, with a slightly longer history than Narugo, has produced many master class wood artisans.

Togatta Kokeshi have a relatively large head, some being colorful with red radial ornamentation painted over the top of the head, forehead and on the sides of the face, and others with bobbed black hair without ornamentation. The body patterns mainly consist of overlapped chrysanthemum designs or modified chrysanthemum designs, leaving a flowery impression over all.

The origin of the Kokeshi doll is a mystery. It has been said that the Kokeshi doll started in the Tohoku district in the late Edo or early Meiji period, but there are various opinions about the birthplace. The wood crafters of the mountainside villages made it as a toy for children, and the dolls have unique designs and features rooted in each region. There are two types of Kokeshi doll, one is the “original kokeshi doll” made in a free-style, not specific to a region, and the other is the “traditional Kokeshi doll” which is designed according to a traditional style that is specific to particular regions. The traditional Kokeshi dolls are created according to 11 styles, based on the following regions: Tsugaru (in Aomori), Nanbu (in Iwate), Kijiyama (in Akita) , Zaotakayu, Yamagata(in Yamagata), Hijiori (in Yamagata and Miyagi), Naruko, Sakunami, Togatta, Yajiro (in Miyagi), Tsuchiyu (in Fukushima). The styles give each Kokeshi doll a characteristic look representing the region. The Kokeshi doll artisans create the doll’s the face according to a basic design, but as the personality of each artisan varies, so do the faces of each doll. Furthermore, the faces of Kokeshi may be different depending on the condition or weather of the day in which the artisans create the dolls. Each Kokeshi doll is truly “one of a kind,” which is its main attraction to many people. The wood used to make Kokeshi dolls are from Cornel, Mono maple, Cherry trees and Pagoda. Trees are cut and dried during winter time, and artisans continue to dry them enough to shape them on a potter’s wheel with a plane or a knife, called Bankaki. The artisans then draw the Kokeshi’s face and body, then apply wax on it. Kaname Fukazawa, writer of children’s books, and known as a huge Kokeshi collector, said “Kokeshi itself seems to be the people in Tohoku (northeastern).” #discovertohoku

A video posted by THE TRAVEL JUNKIE (@traveljunkieid) 

Making of Kokeshi:

01). Drying of virgin wood (Age of tree: 20-30 years old). After bark of the tree is peeled, virgin wood is naturally seasoned for 6 months to one year.

02). Cross cutting: Virgin wood is cut to size. (Dogwood, painted maple (Itaya kaede), maple and the like are used as virgin wood).

03). Conversion of timber: Any excess timber is cut off.

04). Rough turning, head turning, body turning: The head and body portions are planed by turning a spinning lathe.

05). Grinding: The head and body portions are ground with sandpaper and grass.

06). Painting: Designs and patterns are painted on the body and head.

07). Insertion a head is inserted into the body.

08). Finishing: Wax is applied as a finish.

A big thank you Japan National Tourism Organization, ANA, and my readers for following and supporting me on this journey!

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