About craftsmen and craftswomen
Introduction Kokeshi Craftsmen and craftswomen
※We have omitted honorific titles here.
- Teruyuki Hiraga
Master: Kenjirō Hiraga, Kenichi Hiraga
Teruyuki Hiraga was born in Sakunami, Miyagi Prefecture in 1972. His father is Kenichi Hiraga, a kokeshi craftsman. Kenzō Hiraga, who revived the Sakunami type, is his great-grandfather. Teruyuki started making kokeshi dolls around 1987, and officially started his training in 1990. He has won the Prime Minister's Award.
All of his work is elegant and beautiful, whether it is his delicate potter's wheel patterns or his characteristic crab-like chrysanthemum flower patterns of the Sakunami style. His original work includes seasonal designs, fruits, and cute designs that might appeal to people buying their first kokeshi. His personality shines through the products that he makes, and he is loved by many craftsmen.
- Tetsurō Satō
Master: Kichiya Satō, Kichinosuke Satō
Tetsurō Satō was born in 1932 in Tōgatta, Miyagi Prefecture. His father is Kichiya Satō, a kokeshi craftsman. Tetsuro began painting kokeshi in 1945, but his official woodwork training with his uncle Kichinosuke Satō began in 1947 after graduating from junior high school. His father Kichiya and uncle Kichinosuke were his teachers. He finished his apprenticeship in 1950.
With over 70 years of experience as a craftsman, he has won various awards, and he is the one who made kokeshi that truly represented the Tōgatta.
- Hideaki Ōnuma
Master: Hideo Ōnuma
Hideaki Ōnuma was born in Naruko, Miyagi Prefecture in 1956 to kokeshi craftsman Hideo Ōnuma. After graduating from high school in 1975, he began his woodwork training with his father, Hideo. He started selling his first kokeshi in 1984.
Being the craftsman who represents Naruko kokeshi, he travels to kokeshi events in various places to showcase them.
In his store, he sells a wide range of kokeshi, varying from traditional Naruko kokeshi to cute original kokeshi.
- Atsushi Kimura
Master: Hideo Satō
Atsushi Kimura was born in Shiroishi City in 1975. He is one of the few craftsmen who works for a local company as a sales manager on weekdays, and makes kokeshi during the weekend.
Kimura's mother is the younger sister of Yajirō's kokeshi craftsman Satō Hideo. In 2015, he began learning how to craft wood from his uncle Hideo Satō, and from the following year he was taught how to make kokeshi by other craftsmen in Yajirō Kokeshi Village. He works independently since 2018.
His uncle, Hideo Satō, comes from a family lineage of Dennai Satō, but because he trained under Tatsuo Satō, he inherited the style of Tatsuo's great-grandfather, Kōta Satō. The Kōta Satō kokeshi type is recognized as the oldest lineage within Yajirō. Kimura also aims to revive the Dennai Satō style, which is the genealogy of Hideo Satō and Kimura’s great-grandfather’s style, while inheriting the Kōta Satō side from his uncle.
While faithfully inheriting the tradition, he also produces original kokeshi.
- Hiroto Takahashi
Master: Katsushi Ogura
Hiroto Takahashi was born in Shiroishi City, Miyagi Prefecture in 1991.
After graduating from high school, he worked for a construction company until 2016. In the same year he retired from the company, he was hired by Shiroishi City's local human resources development project and began training at Yajirō Kokeshi Village. In 2018, he became a disciple of Katsushi Ogura. In 2019, he became independent and started selling his work. Since he is involved in forestry as a side job and cuts down trees, he is a professional in handling wood and using a planer to cut wood. Like many craftsmen, Takahashi can make his own planes. Therefore, he has a high level of precision in making kokeshi, and he is able to create kokeshi with very beautiful wood grain and colours.
- Kōyu Ueda
Master: Minoru Niiyama
Kōyu Ueda was born 1987, Hiroshima Prefecture. After his birth he moved to Osaka city.
He learned guitar making at a vocational school, and after graduating, he started working in the music industry. He moved to London when he was 24. He saw a wooden educational toy at a market in London, which caught his interest.
Two years later, he returned to Japan and spent a year traveling around the country. During his trip, he found out about Yajirō kokeshi and was impressed by the depth of the technique they were made with, and decided to become an apprentice. He started his training in 2017.
He is not only skilled in making kokeshi – he can also make Karakuri spinning tops, which he inherited from his master.Karakuri spinning tops are devices that use the rotating power of the top to that causes dolls and other objects to move. People who can make Karakuri spinning tops are very rare nowadays.
His kokeshi have a comical face like the Japanese anime “Chibi Maruko-chan”, but his style is based on the traditional style. Looking at their cute face makes me feel calm. The more I look at their faces, the more I fall in love with them.
- Mayumi Niiyama
Master: Yoshinori Niiyama
Mayumi Niiyama was born in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture in 1965. She married Yajirō's kokeshi craftsman Yoshinori Niiyama, and in 1987 she gave birth to her first son, Shōta. Around that time, she began painting kokeshi dolls, and in 1988 she began learning how to turn wood using a lathe.
Her drawings are amazing, and she never fails to disappoint her fans with the new designs and colours she creates for her kokeshi. Right now, she is one of the most popular craftswomen representing the Yajirō family.
- Minao Satō
Master: Tsugio Satō
Minao Satō was born in 1933 as the eldest son of Tsugio Satō, a kokeshi craftsman in Shiroishi City, Miyagi Prefecture. His father Tsugio is the second son of Kannai Satō of Yajirō. In 1966, he started learning woodworking while his father Tsugio was working. He started making kokeshi dolls in 1970.
His use of colour is unique and beautiful. He didn’t just make kokeshi dolls, but also Karakuri goma. He passed away in September 2021.
- Shione Ikeuchi
Master: Yoshinori Niyama, Mayumi Niiyama
Shione Ikeuchi was born in 1997 as the eldest daughter of a temple in Chiba Prefecture.
At first, she hoped to become a furniture designer, but after learning about the depth and complexity of crafting furniture, she decided to start studying woodworking in 2017. In 2018 she began her training under Yoshinori and Mayumi Niiyama, who taught her to make the Yajirō type kokeshi. She made her debut in 2020 after three years of training.
Because of her background in woodworking, she is very skilled in perfecting her work. She is skilled in making kokeshi that are so tiny, that they can be used as keychain straps or chopstick rests. She handles chainsaws, makes her own planes and other tools, and does the same work as men. She is a young and powerful craftswoman whom we are very excited to see what she will bring in the future.
- Yoshinori Niiyama
Master: Yoshitarō Niiyama
Yoshinori Niiyama was born in 1960 in Shiroishi City, Miyagi Prefecture. His father is named Yoshitarō Niiyama. Around 1974 he started learning about plain wood. From 1980 onwards, he started woodworking with Yoshitarō, and also started making kokeshi.
He coached his wife Mayumi Niiyama and his eldest son Shōta.
He has won the Prime Minister's Prize at the All Japan Kokeshi Contest.
While working, he sticks to old traditions, but he also has many new ideas that he puts to use while making kokeshi. He is known for being a true professional among Yajirō kokeshi.
- Yuka Tomiduka
Master: Katsushi Ogura
Yuka Tomizuka was born in Shiroishi City, Miyagi Prefecture in 1992.
After graduating from high school, she applied for a local human resources development program in Shiroishi City through the introduction of her homeroom teacher, and began training at Yajirō Kokeshi Village in 2011. From 2012 onwards, she trained under Katsushi Ogura. In 2014, she started selling kokeshi. In 2016, she moved to Saitama Prefecture to get married, but she has continued to make kokeshi while raising her children. Her kokeshi have an honest style, and their expression can be compared to that of a cute young girl.
- Sasaki Kokeshi Workshop
Type: new type of kokeshi
A workshop run by a married couple, Isao and Miho Sasaki.
Currently, the number of craftsmen who can make traditional kokeshi as well as new kokeshi dolls is decreasing year by year. Sasaki is the only craftsman who specializes in new kokeshi in Shiroishi City and can do everything from wood cutting to processing and colouring.
In 2013, he was commissioned to create a “Cat Kokeshi” to commemorate that the famous broadway musical “ Cats” was being performed by a Japanese acting group in Sendai. He also creates various kokeshi dolls, from characters and animals such as cats and dogs to maneki-neko and girls.
Sasaki used to submit new work to the All-Japan Kokeshi Contest held in Shiroishi City every year to support the sales of new Kokeshi dolls. The work of the Sasaki Kokeshi Studio has won numerous awards for its high quality production.