Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Yurihonjo hinakaido doll festival - part 1

On 13th and 21st March, hubby and I went to see a doll festival known as Yurihonjo hinakaido. Yurihonjo hinakaido means ‘Yurihonjo city hina doll route’, which is the name of a public annual traditional doll display event held in Yurihonjo city of Akita prefecture. Visitors can follow a map of public displays of traditional hina dolls at over 50 different locations around the city. The Japanese doll festival (hina matsuri) is held on March 03 every year. Families with daughters display a set of ornamental dolls representing the emperor and empress (dairibina), three court ladies (san-nin kanjo), five male musicians (gonin bayashi), ministers, and attendants in traditional court dress of the Heian period. The dolls are placed on platforms with a red decoration sheet called a himosen. The custom of displaying dolls began during the Heian period. It was believed that the dolls possessed the power to contain evil spirits. While hina matsuri is a private display of hina dolls at homes of families with daughters, Yurihonjo hinakaido festival is a public display of antique hina dolls that date back at least several hundred years.

Yurihonjo hinakaido doll display festival is coordinated by Akita prefecture Yuri regional development office. Hinakaido festival encompasses four main areas of Yurihonjo city, namely Iwaki in the north, Ouchi and Honjo in the center, and Yashima in the south. This year, hina dolls are displayed at six public exhibition halls from February 13 until April 04. These public halls are Kameda castle Sato Yasohachi art museum (Iwaki), Iwaki local history museum, Ouchi denshokan, Honjo kyodo shiryoukan, Shushin-kan and Honmaru-no-yakata halls in Honjo Park, and Yashima kyodo bunka hozon denshu shisetsu. In addition, machinaka hina-meguri festival takes place in more than fifty different locations within the city, and this year it was held from March 03 until March 22. During machinaka hina-meguri festival, people could drop by in shops, hotels and offices, and see traditional hina doll displays, often dating back in the same family for hundreds of years. The hina doll displays vary greatly in size, history and style. In March 2009, hubby and I visited the hina doll displays in Sasaki house of Amasagi Mura in Iwaki, Ouchi denshokan, Honjo kyodo shiryoukan, and Kameda castle Sato Yasohachi art museum. Beautiful photographs of antique dolls can be found in blog posts of last year Yurihonjo hinakaido doll festival part 1 and part 2. This year we visited hina doll displays at Yashima kyodo bunka hozon denshu shisetsu and Shushin-kan in Honjo Park. In this post, I will write about our visit to Yashima kyodo bunka hozon denshu shisetsu.

Yashima kyodo bunka hozon denshu shisetsu
On 13th March, hubby and I went to see the display of hina dolls at Yashima kyodo bunka hozon denshu shisetsu which is a facility (institute) for preservation of local cultural heritage. We started from our home at about 10 am and it took us about 45 minutes to reach the facility by our car. The facility is very near to Yashima railway station and we saw a sky-blue and bright yellow colored train waiting at the station.
Yellow and sky blue train at Yashima railway station

Very old hina dolls of Yashima region from Edo period were displayed in one of the halls of the facility. Various types of exquisite hina doll sets like kokinbina, kyohoubina, keshibina, and oshiebina were exhibited. The exhibition hall looked so beautiful which was full of hina dolls. In addition, there were several hanging ornaments called Tsurushi kazari which consists of various kinds of handmade small cute hanging dolls. There were several hina doll sets in the hall and so we moved inside the hall in a counterclockwise direction and enjoyed seeing the antique doll sets one at a time.
Exhibition hall of hina doll display

Exhibition hall and Tsurushi kazari

Beautiful Tsurushi kazari

Me standing next to Tsurushi kazari

Doll of Ikoma Chikaakira
The first doll in the exhibition hall was of the ninth feudal lord of Yashima-han named Ikoma Chikaakira. The last feudal lord of Yashima-han Ikoma Chikayuki was forced to leave Yashima at the end Edo period. In 1871 he kept all his belongings with his servant and left Yashima. All these belongings were later given to Saito family who now own this doll. The cloth of doll is made of the same material as the clothes worn by the ninth feudal lord Ikoma Chikaakira.
Doll of Ikoma Chikaakira

Oshie dolls of Tomida-ke
Traditionally in Akita, oshie paper dolls were presented to new born daughters. Oshie dolls of Tomida-ke (ke means family) were made using cloth (usually recycled kimono silks) that was cut and fitted to hard-lining padded cardboard outlines. The dolls were then mounted on a bamboo stick as was customary. There were various themes for oshie dolls like kabuki, fairytale, good luck omen, and ukiyo-e. Many oshie dolls were made from the end of Edo period up to World War II. However after the war, oshie doll making was stopped due to shortage of cloth.
Oshie dolls of Tomida-ke

Oshie dolls of Takeuchi-ke
Natsue Takeuchi (deceased 1973) of Yashima town made these oshie dolls. If someone wanted oshie dolls for their daughters, she made the dolls and presented to them. Theme for oshie dolls was kabuki or fairytale.
Oshie dolls of Takeuchi-ke

Hina dolls of Tomida-ke
Tomida family of Yashimacho is presently into liquor business. However, earlier the family was making papers for fusuma doors as well as dealt with various types of papers used for painting. The origin of hina dolls of Tomida-ke is not known. The family has keshibina as well as kokinbina dolls. It seems that whenever a daughter was born into Tomida-ke, new hina doll sets were bought. The doll set on display is keshibina type. The height of odairisama (emperor doll) is 10.5 cm and ohinasama (empress doll) is 9.5 cm. San-nin kanjo and gonin bayashi are also present in the doll set. Although variety of miniature furniture, chest of drawers, and utensils for tea ceremony are displayed, they do not belong to this set of hina dolls.
Hina dolls of Tomida-ke

Dairisama and san-nin kanjo dolls of Tomida-ke

Hina dolls of Sato-ke
Sato family is living in Yashimacho from the beginning of Edo period. The family was into dyeing business from 1784 to the middle of Meiji period. During the end of Edo period, Sato family became the leader of nine villages and was allowed to have a family name and a sword (during Edo period only samurai classes and above had official family names). When a daughter was born into Sato-ke, the hina doll set on display was presented by relatives in 1917. This doll set is keshibina type. The height of odairisama is 10.5 cm and ohinasama is 9.5 cm. It is unknown when these dolls were made, however the year 1917 is written on the case of the doll set. The conservation condition of these dolls is excellent and shining clothes of the dolls can still be seen. Odairisama, ohinasama, gonin bayashi, and zuishin (court guards) belong to the same set of dolls. However, the original san-nin kanjo of this set was presented by Sato-ke to a new-born daughter of their relative during World War II. So the present san-nin kanjo of the doll set was bought after the war.
Hina dolls of Sato-ke

Dairisama dolls of Sato-ke

Hina dolls of Kumagaya-ke
Kumagaya family of Yashimacho started the business of lumber and a sawmill company in 1935. The hina doll set of Kumagaya-ke originally belonged to a wealthy person of Sakata in Yamagata who bought it from Kyoto. However, it is unknown when these dolls were bought from Kyoto. Somehow the dolls reached Kumagaya-ke during World War II. In 1955 almost all hina goods were burnt in a fire, so that now only dairibina, gonin bayashi, and a few miniature chests of drawers remain. This hina doll set is of the type kokinbina. The height of odairisama is 54 cm and ohinasama is 53 cm. It is unknown when these dolls were made. But from 1787 to 1793, Edo government restricted the making of such huge hina dolls and the maximum allowed height of the dolls was 26 cm. So this doll set was probably made after the restriction period, sometime around 1811-29. The eye balls of dairibina and gonin bayashi are made of glass, which is one of the salient features of kokinbina that makes the dolls look real life-like. In 1780, gonin bayashi of hina doll set was contrived as a representation of noh-play in Edo city. At about the same time in 1787, gonin bayashi was started to be used as a representation of gagaku play in Kyoto. Since the gonin bayashi of Kumagaya-ke represents gagaku play, so it is believed that gonin bayashi and the entire kokinbina doll set is originally from Kyoto. From the size and the way of making dairibina, gonin bayashi, and hina goods and tools, it is concluded that all the dolls and tools belong to the same unit set.
Hina dolls of Kumagaya-ke

Ohinasama doll of Kumagaya-ke

Me standing next to hina dolls of Kumagaya-ke

Hina dolls of Kotsugai-ke
Kotsugai family of Yashimacho was into dyeing business from end of Edo period to the middle of Meiji period. The hina doll set of Kotsugai-ke was moved from Akita to Sakata in 1934. But in 1935, a daughter of Kotsugai-ke married into a family living in Sakata. At that time, hina doll set was returned back to Kotsugai-ke. It is written on the back side of dairibina and gonin bayashi dolls that they were made in 1848. The back of the case where this doll set is kept shows that it was bought in 1851. Also on the doll set case, town names Iwaki and Kagacho are written, which indicates that at some point these dolls belonged to family/homes in these places. This hina doll set is of the type kokinbina. The height of odairisama is 42 cm and ohinasama is 38 cm. The back of the package of gonin bayashi shows that it was made by Takeuchi Bunkai (1797-1863) who was a Japanese style painter and sculptor. This type of hina doll set is also present in Aoyagi family of Kakunodate city. Although eye balls of kokinbina dolls are supposed to be made of glass, the eyes of dairibina dolls of Kotsugai-ke are painted. But eye balls of gonin bayashi are made of glass.
Hina dolls of Kotsugai-ke

Ohinasama doll of Kotsugai-ke

Hina dolls of Sugai-ke
In 1686, Sugai family moved from Sakata to Yashimacho and started a liquor shop named Sakataya. Later Sugai-ke assumed an important position in Yashimacho. The family crest of Kitsugawa-ke is kept as one of the hina equipments of hina doll set of Sugai-ke. Kitsugawa-ke is the family name of the wife of the ninth Edo period feudal lord Ikoma Chikaakira of Yashima-han. The daughter of Kitsugawa-ke married the feudal lord in 1791. Although the official list of items the wife of lord received from Kitsugawa-ke during her marriage shows no record of hina doll set, however it is generally considered to come from the wife’s family. So even though the origin of dairibina of Sugai-ke is unknown, it is believed that it might have originally come from Kitsugawa-ke. This hina doll set is of the type kokinbina. The height of odairisama is 28 cm and ohinasama is 33 cm. Although eye balls of kokinbina dolls are supposed to be made of glass, the eyes of dairibina dolls of Sugai-ke are painted.
Hina dolls of Sugai-ke

Ohinasama doll of Sugai-ke

Hina dolls of Fujita-ke
Fujita family moved from Honjo to Yashimacho at the end of Edo period. Fujita-ke was dealer of medicine and kimono fabrics and had a shop named Ogawaya. The shogi board of Kitsugawa-ke is kept as one of the hina equipments of hina doll set of Fujita-ke. Kitsugawa-ke is the family name of the wife of the ninth feudal lord of Yashima-han. So although the origin of dairibina of Fujita-ke is unknown, it is believed that it might have originally come from the family of Ikoma feudal lord. This hina doll set is of the type kyohoubina. The height of odairisama is 40 cm and ohinasama is 35 cm. It is unknown when these dolls were made, however the gold crown pattern of odairisama seems to be from the initial Edo period. Kimono sleeves of odairisama and ohinasama are straightened sideways laterally and the kimono cloth uses a lot of gold material and brocade, which are the salient features of kyohoubina dolls.
Hina dolls of Fujita-ke

Ohinasama doll of Fujita-ke

The hina doll set of Fujita-ke were the last ones on display inside the exhibition hall. The facility (institute) is basically a center for preservation of local cultural heritage. So we moved around in other exhibition rooms and saw a statue of Yamabushi mountain ascetic hermit. In another room, we saw a replica of a farmer’s home of Taisho period.
Hubby standing next to a statue of yamabushi

Farmer’s house of Taisho period

We enjoyed seeing the antique hina doll display at Yashima kyodo bunka hozon denshu shisetsu. On 21st March, we went to see hina doll display at Shushin-kan hall in Honjo Park about which I will write in the next post.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Yellow sand

On 21st March, hubby and I went for weekly grocery shopping. On reaching the open car parking area of our apartment building, we noticed that all the cars were dirty and covered with a layer of dust. The previous night it had rained heavily, and dirty yellow-brownish droplets of water covered the glass panes and exterior of all the cars at the parking lot. I looked around and saw that entire Yurihonjo city was covered with a blanket of dirt and dust. We were amazed to see such a phenomenon. Seeing so much dirt and dust around us, I felt a bit nostalgic and even little bit happy! This is because I felt that I was in my own hometown in India, which nowadays seems to be covered with dust and dirt 24 hours a day.

A few photos of our car covered with dirt and dust

The dust and dirt all around us was due to yellow sand (also known as Asian dust or yellow dust). Yellow sand is a seasonal phenomenon which affects East Asia sporadically usually during the springtime. The dust originates in the deserts of Mongolia and northern China where high speed surface winds and dust storms kick up dense clouds of fine dry soil particles. These clouds are then carried eastward by prevailing winds and pass over China, Korea, and Japan. While the yellow sand passes over China, it usually mixes with industrial pollutants, which makes such storms hazardous and toxic. Areas affected by the dust have decreased visibility and the dust is known to cause a variety of health problems. Although yellow sand swept over most of Japan facing Japan-Sea side on 20th and 21st March, it was not as intense and severe as in China and Korea.

Our car looked rather dirty and so hubby decided to wash the car before going for shopping. He washed the car at an automatic car wash machine at a gas station near our home. As I have written in an earlier post, automatic car wash machines are very common sights at gas stations in Japan. These machines are generally of the type called exterior rollover car wash, which cleans the exterior of the cars. These fully automatic machines are self operated and are very simple to use. A computerized cashier offers several menu options like ‘shampoo wash’ or ‘wax wash’ to choose and select from. This time hubby chose ‘shampoo wash’. After purchasing the ticket, he moved our car to the car washing booth area and checked that the side mirrors were retracted, emergency parking brake was pulled, and the engine was stopped. Then the car wash equipment moved back and forth over our car on a little track set into the ground and performed specific functions such as applying soap, rinse or blow dry with each pass. The entire process of car wash took only about two minutes and our car became incredibly clean. Hubby took a video of the car wash from inside the car.
Automatic car wash machine at a gas station

The notice on the left explains the car specifications and things (antenna, side mirrors etc.) to check before car wash. The notice on the right shows various kinds of washing menu options.

Video of automatic car wash taken from inside the car

A few photos of our shining clean car after washing

Apparently, the yellow sand and dust particles were still there in the air, and the next morning our car was again covered with dirt! Now we are waiting for the next weekend to wash our car again.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Kawatsura kokeshi dolls

As I wrote in the previous post, on 13th February, hubby and I went to see Inukko Matsuri in Yuzawa city of Akita prefecture. Near the festival site, exhibition of Kawatsura lacquerware and kokeshi dolls (Kawatsura shikki sogou tenjikai) was held. The exhibition was organized by Akita Lacquerware Industry Cooperative Association (Akita-ken shikki kougyou kyodou kumiai) and was held at Kawatsura lacquerware traditional crafts museum hall building (Yuzawa-shi Kawatsura shikki dentou kougeikan). While waiting to enjoy the night-time snow festival, we went to see the exhibition of Kawatsura kokeshi dolls at about 5.30 pm.

Display of Kawatsura kokeshi dolls at the exhibition

Kokeshi dolls are originally from Tohoku region of Japan. The dolls are handmade from wood and have a simple cylindrical trunk and an enlarged rounded head. A few thin, painted lines define the face, and the body has a floral design painted in red, black, and sometimes yellow. The dolls are covered with a layer of wax. Kokeshi dolls lack arms and legs. The bottom or the backside of dolls is marked with the signature of the artist. Although kokeshi dolls are simple and minimalist dolls, they are difficult to make well as proportion and style must be just right. These dolls were first produced by kijishi (wood artisans) at Shinchi Shuraku near Togatta onsen in Miyagi prefecture in the middle of Edo period to be sold to people visiting the hot springs. Kokeshi making techniques gradually spread to other spa areas in the Tohoku region. The shapes and patterns of traditional kokeshi dolls called dentou-kokeshi are particular to a certain area and are classified under eleven types, namely Tsuchiyu, Togatta, Yajiro, Naruko, Sakunami, Yamagata, Kijiyama, Nanbu, Tsugaru, Zao-takayu, and Hijioro. The most dominant type is the Naruko variety originally made in Miyagi prefecture and can also be found in Akita, Iwate, and Yamagata prefectures. There is another variety of kokeshi dolls known as creative kokeshi (shingata-kokeshi) that allows the artist freedom in terms of shape, design, and color. Creative kokeshi dolls were developed after World War II and are not particular to a specific region of Japan. Nowadays kokeshi dolls are widely popular as collector's items and souvenirs.

Kawatsura kokeshi dolls are traditional products of Inagawamachi, a town known to have the most kokeshi doll artisans in Akita prefecture. The wooden kokeshi dolls were first produced by Kijiya wood craftsmen as a sideline and this type of traditional dolls are known as Kijiyama. Some of these Kijiya craftsmen lived far in the mountains (yama), which was the source for their wood. Thus, the name Kijiyama is translated as ‘woodcraft mountain’. The actual location of Kijiyama is very remote and was inaccessible during the winter months. Therefore many of the kokeshi makers left and settled in the less remote area of Kawatsura, which is now a part of Inagawamachi. This was the origin of Kawatsura lacquerware craftsmen and Kawatsura kokeshi dolls. However, these dolls are still known by their original traditional name of Kijiyama. The first Kijiyama kokeshi dolls were made near the end of Meiji period, and were modeled on Naruko variety. Kijiyama kokeshi are simple, attractive, warm and friendly, and have gentle features.

Kawatsura Kijiyama kokeshi dolls are simple one-piece dolls that are carved from a single piece of wood. The art, technique, and skills of making these kokeshi dolls are passed on from fathers to sons and from masters to apprentices. There are ten steps involved in the making of these dolls, which are as follows.
1. Bassai: Cutting Itayakaede Japanese maple tree.
2. Genboku kansou: Drying the wood by laying it out at a place without direct sunlight for one year.
3. Nakamogi: Cutting timber wood into log form of about one meter length.
4. Kawakezuri: Removing bark from the log by using an axe or hatchet. This prevents damage by insect and also helps in drying the log.
5. Nakawari: Splitting the log into four equal parts.
6. Tamakiri: Cutting the log into the desired length of kokeshi.
7. Kidori: Making hexagonal or octagonal shapes of logs. During this process, sorting and selection of material is done.
8. Rokurohiki: Cutting and shaping the log in details using a lathe machine, and polishing the surface to a fine finish.
9. Byousai: Painting head, face, and body of kokeshi.
10. Kansei: Completion by painting entire kokeshi with wax for attaining a glossy surface.
Various steps involved in the making of Kawatsura Kijiyama kokeshi dolls (please click on the photo for an enlarged view)

Kawatsura Kijiyama kokeshi one-piece dolls have unique heads and bright painted designs on their aprons. The heads tend to be slightly elongated and the bodies are columnar, tapered at the shoulders to a definite neck. The heads are about the same width as the body. Some Kijiyama have bobbed hair styles while others have side tufts and bangs, with a red bow tied at the top. The eyes of these dolls may be half-moon shaped or narrower, and have small cat noses (neko-bana). Lips are a small black line with a red dot below. Kijiyama dolls are painted in the most realistic style of all the traditional kokeshi. The body of most of these dolls have painted kimono in red and black with light touches of green. The first kimono-style Kijiyama was painted by a craftsman in the early Showa period, which set the distinctive style for this family of dolls. Generally there are three styles of kimono painted on Kijiyama dolls. The striped kimono is painted with a matching striped obi. Another popular kimono style has a maedare (apron) design outlined in front and painted with igata kasuri pattern. Umebachi or bowl-shaped plum blossoms are painted on the front of the third kimono style, with stripes painted down the top and shoulders. Yet other styles of kimono are painted with flower motifs such as stylized chrysanthemums, which is somewhat like Naruko kokeshi. Depending on the face, hairstyles, and kimono patterns, Kawatsura Kijiyama kokeshi dolls are classified into five subcategories, namely Taiichiro gata, Yonekichi gata, Hyoujirou gata, Ishikura gata, and Tokuichi gata. The details are shown in the photo below. All these types of Kawatsura kokeshi dolls were on display at the exhibition. These dolls are very beautiful and attractive because of their simplicity and colorful drawing patterns. Every doll at the exhibition seemed to emanate its own individual spirit. Innovative ‘Komachi musume’ dolls of Ogachimachi Komachi festival were also on display.
Various kinds of eyes, noses, lips, hairstyles, and kimono patterns of Kawatsura Kijiyama kokeshi dolls (please click on the photo for an enlarged view)

Kijiyama dolls having typical features of half moon eyes, simple lips, and bobbed hair or side tufts. Various patterns of kimono designs are also seen.

Komachi musume dolls

After appreciating the display of various beautiful Kawatsura Kijiyama kokeshi dolls at the exhibition, I wished to buy a few dolls as souvenir. Hubby found a very unique pair of male and female kokeshi dolls that looked very cute, elegant, and perfect. Seeing the dolls gave me a sense of immense happiness and I just knew that those dolls were meant for me! The entire set consisted of a base, a pair of male and female dolls, and two lamp stands called bonbori. The set is made by a famous kokeshi craftsman named Kenichi Kitayama who is from Hiragacho in Yuzawa city of Akita prefecture. He is a professional maker of Kawatsura Kijiyama dolls of the type Yonekichi gata. It was a great experience to meet Mr. Kitayama who was standing at the exhibition hall besides the dolls he crafted. He explained that although traditional original kokeshi were only female dolls but nowadays male dolls are also crafted, especially when making a pair of dolls. This set of dolls is really unique with the signature of the artist at the backside of the base, and not the usual place which is the back of dolls. The wooden dolls have a very dignified, well defined, and appealing look. The female doll has black dots painted above her eyes in accordance with the beauty standards of Heian period. The male doll has a carved topknot hairstyle. These dolls were the only ones with distinctive patterns and unique kimono style in the entire exhibition. A lot of bright colors are used for painting the kimonos. The patterns of the kimono of female doll are brightly colored in black, orange, and green. The kimono of male doll has patterns colored in black, green, orange, yellow, and white. The patterns, motifs, and various bright colors used to decorate kimono of this pair of dolls is not the usual style of Kijiyama dolls. This set of dolls is simple, wonderful, and now decorates the curio shelf of our home. We have even preserved the wrapping papers which have various hairstyles and facial features of Kawatsura kokeshi dolls printed on them.
Wrapping paper showing hairstyles and facial features of Kawatsura kokeshi dolls

Set consisting of a base, a pair of Kawatsura kokeshi dolls, and lamp stands we purchased

Facial features, hairstyles, and a portion of kimono patterns of the pair of male and female Kawatsura kokeshi dolls

Signature of the craftsman Kenichi Kitayama at the backside of the base of the doll set

After paying for the kokeshi dolls at the checkout counter, I was given six coupons reflecting the purchase amount, which was 6000 Yen. Then we went to a nearby booth having chuusen lottery box, which is a hexagonal box suspended on an axle between two supports. We grab a crank and spin the contraption like a bingo machine. The box is full of small colored balls that whirl and move inside, and a ball is spit out from a little hole onto a tray. We may win a prize depending on the color of the ball. The number of times we can spin the box depends on the amount of our purchase. At this booth, we could spin the chuusen box once for purchase of goods worth 1000 Yen. So I got to spin the box six times. One red, one yellow, and four white balls came out of the box. I was very happy to get one second (red ball) and one third prize (yellow ball), which must be very rare as the person at the booth was rather surprised that I won two prizes. He added up second and third prizes and told me to pick up a wooden doll from a stock of about 10 pieces. I was a bit confused about choosing the doll as all dolls were so cute and beautiful. Hubby helped me in selecting an elegant Kawatsura kokeshi doll crafted by Ichijirou Sakurada who is from Nishimonai in Ugo town of Akita prefecture. This Kijiyama doll is rather unique as the kimono pattern has a painting of a pretty dancing belle of Nishimonai bon festival. The cost of this doll was 17000 Yen but I got it free!
Elegant Kawatsura kokeshi doll I got as a chuusen lottery prize

Signature of the craftsman Ichijirou Sakurada at the back of the doll

I love Kawatsura kokeshi dolls. My love of wooden dolls started more than 3.5 decades ago when as a little girl I was thrilled to get an Indian one-piece wooden doll as a present from my parents. I still have this doll at my brother’s home in India. The face of the doll is painted in an Indian style and a pitcher of water is carved on the top of head. The waist of the doll is distinct and two hands were attached to the side of the body with nails. Unfortunately, the hands are lost now. My brother sent me a photo of the doll a few days ago. Thanks Dada. I felt nostalgic seeing the photo of my precious childhood wooden doll.

One-piece Indian wooden doll