Wednesday, March 17, 2010

#130 Japan...Thanks Asuka!

What a kawa-i handmade cover ^_^

The left stamp on the top was issued in 1975 commemorating the first time visit of Japanese head of State Emperor Hirohito and Empress Nagako to the United States.

The two stamps at right was issued in 1974 celebrating 50th anniversary of the wedding of Emperor Hirohito and Empress Nagako.

The 20 yen stamp on the 2nd row was issued in 1972 featuring Mt.Kurikoma and Kijiyama Kokeshi Doll in the Kurikoma Quasi National Park.

Kokeshi dolls originate from the Tohoku region of Northern Japan, an area well-known for its onsen (hot spring) resorts. These handmade wooden dolls are thought to date back to the early 19th century when kijiya (woodworkers), accustomed to making bowls and trays, began using their woodworking skills and lathes to make simple dolls to sell as toys and souvenirs to the onsen visitors. The dolls may originally have had a spiritual significance with the kokeshi representing a wish for a healthy child. It has also been suggested that kokeshi, with their round heads and limbless bodies probably made in an unpainted form originally, were used as massage tools by spa bathers. The name 'kokeshi' itself is thought to derive from a combination of names given to the wooden dolls in the various areas of their manufacture.

Using wood that has been seasoned for several months, typically from the dark cherry or the lighter mizuki tree, the kokeshi craftsman turns and cuts the doll on a lathe and polishes it to a fine finish. The head and body are generally turned separately then attached together by way of a plug. The kokeshi craftsman then finally hand paints on the face and the kimono pattern. An interesting video about how kokeshi are made today can be seen on

Kokeshi are generally bought by Japanese as mementos. In addition to being ornamental, they are also seen as charms to prevent fires or even ward off evil. Mizuki, the wood often used to make the kokeshi doll's face, literally translates as "water tree". It is a very moist wood and some Japanese believe that having a kokeshi in their home helps prevent fire.

Kokeshi, celebrated today as one of Japan's folk arts, are of two types, traditional and creative.

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