Posted by: softypapa | September 18, 2007

Kokeshi Japanese Wooden Doll Set Okame Usobuki Figurine


Small, Japanese wooden kokeshi doll display set featuring the faces of Okame and Usobuki.  This interesting doll tableau is less than 40 years old and is in poor condition with marks and scratches from handling and discoloration and stains from age and display.  Please read below to learn about the history of kokeshi dolls, one of Japan’s most unique and distinctive folk crafts.

Height: 3.7 inches (9.5 centimeters)
Width (across front of display at base): 5.5 inches (14.0 centimeters)
Weight: 3.5 ounces (101 grams)

Click here to see other kokeshi!
here to see more Okame items!
here to see other Usobuki items!
here to see more Japanese dolls!
here to see additional treasures from Japan!

More about Kokeshi

Kokeshi wooden dolls are one of the most unique and interesting of Japan’s many traditional folk crafts.  Originating in the early 19th century in the northern spa towns of Miyagi prefecture, kokeshi are thought to have first been produced as toys for children from leftover bits of scrap wood.  These early dolls were made by craftsmen who earned their living producing other types of woodcraft, but who eventually began to create kokeshi to be sold as souvenirs in the area’s many local hot spring resorts.  Over time the craft was refined, with many regional varieties appearing reflecting a wide range of technical and artistic variation.  Today there are several schools of kokeshi design led by master craftsmen who often pass their trade to succeeding generations within their own family.

When collecting kokeshi it is important to note that you will likely encounter two main types; dolls which are made by craftsmen and those which are mass-produced to be sold as souvenirs.  The former are usually one-of-a-kind originals created by dedicated artisans who take their work very seriously and place great emphasis on traditional design and appearance.  The other type of kokeshi are those which are manufactured specifically to be sold as souvenirs of famous or interesting places such as resorts or hot springs.  These are produced en-mass, and while often attractive and interesting memorabilia they are not as frequently sought after by collectors and usually command a lower selling price.  How can you determine if a kokeshi is a “craftsman” or “souvenir” style doll?  This is actually quite easy as craftsmen-style dolls are normally signed (on the bottom) by the maker, and may have no other writing on the body of the doll besides decorative calligraphy.  Souvenir types on the other hand are normally unsigned and may have the name of the place which sold them conspicuously visible on the body of the doll.  Collectors of Kokeshi typically place special emphasis on the facial quality of the dolls, desiring certain types – gentle or mischievous for example – over others.  One interesting Japanese Kokeshi collector we previously met expressed a preference for newer dolls over older ones, fearing the older dolls may be haunted.

More about Okame

Japanese Okame mask.  Okame, also known as Uzume or Otafuku is the name for the female half* of a traditional Japanese Kyogen theatre pair (see below to learn more about Kyogen).  She is considered to be the goddess of mirth and is frequently seen in Japanese art.  Her full cheeks and merry eyes are an unforgettable sight and a delight to behold.  Some Japanese scholars theorize that long ago, when the first Okame masks were created, they may have represented an idealized form of feminine beauty.  Styles and tastes are subject to change, and the ancient Japanese might be surprised to learn that the name Okame is today sometimes used as a less-than-appreciated joking taunt by Japanese husbands and boyfriends who haven’t yet learned better.  In contrast, a famous and contemporary Japanese Kyogen actor once commented that the countenance of Okame is what every man hopes his bride will look like on his wedding night…

More about Usobuki

Japanese Usobuki mask.  Usobuki, also known as Hyotoko is the name for the male half* of a traditional Japanese Kyogen theatre pair (see below to learn more about Kyogen).  Usobuki is sometimes called the ‘whistler’ as he usually appears to be in the process of blowing with all his might through pursed lips.  His countenance in remarkable for its expression of forceful effort; and his puffy cheeks, bulging eyes and furrowed brow have been used to portray a wide range of characters within the Kyogen repertoire.  Usobuki masks have been used to depict everything from comical human characters to the spirits of plants, fish and insects; including mosquitoes, mushrooms and even pine resin!  Perhaps most memorable of all is Usobuki’s appearance as a sinner on his way to hell in a play titled “A Sinner with References.”

item code: R2S4-0003344
ship code: L1650

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