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Japanese Matagoro Kokeshi doll

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    Posted 3 years ago

    (989 items)

    This kokeshi doll is 9.75" high x 2.75" diameter at the widest point and weighs 1 lb 2.3 ounces. It is signed and stamped on the back, but the stamp is too faint to make out. The bottom is polished to a very fine, even surface but the rings in the wood are very evident, possibly why it is signed on the back instead of the bottom as is more typical. It is about as basic as a kokeshi doll gets. At first, I thought it was turned on a lathe and not carved, but then I noticed that the hole in the bottom is off center, not in the center as it would be if it was turned on a lathe. Not sure of the purpose of the hole. It is in the center of the grain, so maybe meant to stop splitting? It was pretty inexpensive and I didn't have one. It is also a good size. This is the last thing that I purchased from the estate of the American professor who taught in Japan in the 1990s. As with the other items he sent back to the States, this was never used. I was trying to delay until June to buy these things from his estate, but people started to notice and purchase some of the items, so I paid off my credit cards a few days early and used my June "cool stuff" budget to buy most of the things that I liked. These things are remarkable as they are all at least 30 years old, in new condition and of good quality. He had a "good eye". A couple of items remain and if they are still there in July, I will get them, too.

    From: :

    "Matagoro Yashima
    Sho-Chiku-Bai | Good Luck - Kyoto Traditions states that the Matagoro doll dates back several hundred years to a woodworker named Matagoro. He is said to have carved sugi (Japanese cedar) into a doll form, it is a predecessor to the traditional kokeshi form known today. Sugi is a soft, grainy, lightweight wood considered by most to be unsuitable for kokeshi making but the skills and the style of the first Matagoro have been passed down through many generations, and is currently on the 9th generation."

    Great site for information about kokeshi dolls!

    The Wikipedia entry for kokeshi dolls:

    "Kokeshi (???, ???, kokeshi), are simple wooden dolls with no arms or legs that have been crafted for more than 150 years as a toy for children. Japanese dolls, originally from the northeastern region (T?hoku-chih?) of Japan. They are handmade from wood, have a simple trunk and head with a few thin, painted lines to define the face. The body often has floral and/or ring designs painted in red, black, and sometimes green, purple, blue, or yellow inks, and covered with a layer of wax. One characteristic of kokeshi dolls is their lack of arms or legs. Since the 1950s, kokeshi makers have signed their work, usually on the bottom and sometimes on the back."

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    1. rhineisfine rhineisfine, 3 years ago
      OK, what I'm about to say isn't enough to really help, but maybe it will get the ball rolling, especially if someone else can come in and correct any mistakes I'm about to make :)

      The first 4 characters (hiragana) look like they might read 'asatako' (?) - but I'm not sure why some of them are big and others are very small. My kanji is almost non-existent (especially when written rather than in typeface), so I don't know what the rest says.

      The flower on the left side of her head is camellia (tsubaki), and I *think* the red and white ones on her obi are, too. (Artistic renditions of camellia can look a lot like plum [ume] sometimes, but typically the bottom 2 petals are shown as smaller when it's camellia, which is the case here.) And I'm pretty sure the design on the front of her kimono or apron (?) is autumnal rice ears (inaho).

      This is a really sweet kokeshi and I hope you can learn more about it!
    2. racer4four racer4four, 3 years ago
      She is lovely, and kokeshi always make me feel very serene and happy.
      It's their faces and general demeanor.
      Soulportal who is a renowned expert on Kokeshi used to pop in to CW occasionally but I haven't heard from her for a few years.
      This lady has lovely handpainted hair and face!
    3. kwqd kwqd, 3 years ago
      @rhineisfine - Thanks for the information! It gives me a place to start.

      @racer4four - Thanks, Karen! Looks like Soulportal has been inactive on CW for the last four years.... Too bad I missed her...

      Thanks for loving my kokeshi Jenni, Karen and fortapache!
    4. kwqd kwqd, 3 years ago
      Maybe her web site?

    5. kwqd kwqd, 3 years ago
      Thanks for the kokeshi love Kevin, glassiegirl, Jewelryantiquelover and Thomas!
    6. japanfanbev japanfanbev, 3 years ago
      Hi, it’s a Matagoro kokeshi - see this link -
      the same design is shown in the first picture, although the picture shown is probably made by a later generation of the Matagoro family than the one you have.
      There is a lively Facebook group dedicated to kokeshi called Kokeshi Village. It is run by Madeline, who is the lady behind the Soul Portals site (which is a fantastic resource on kokeshi, if you want to find out more). She also publishes the Kokeshi Trends magazine online (quarterly, free - you can get advance notice and see the magazine earlier if you add your email on the Kokeshi Trends webpage). I happened to contribute my first article to the magazine this quarter, on omiyage (souvenir) Kokeshi.
    7. japanfanbev japanfanbev, 3 years ago
      PS. I have a Matagoro kokeshi in my collection too, which is why I recognised the style. Mine is shown in the last picture of the page I linked above.
    8. kwqd kwqd, 3 years ago
      Thank you japanfanbev! I had found this site, but not waded through all of the pages and may never have done so. Great site!
    9. japanfanbev japanfanbev, 3 years ago
      You’re welcome.

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