/ stories  


  Kokeshi Confessions  

After having confessed his flying fish fiasco, Chas said I had to confess my Kokeshi klutz calamity, even though it happened 6 months ago.  So, here’s my confession.

In June, while we were in Tokyo, we visited the Oriental Bazaar to do some Christmas shopping.  It is four levels of all kinds of stuff; Japanese crafts, books, clothing, treasures, and tourist trash; a must stop for all visitors to Tokyo.  It is even rumored that the Japanese doll on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album was purchased there by John Lennon himself.  The top floor is the best, mostly antiques.

I have become fond of small wooden Kokeshi dolls, and I have acquired several different ones since coming to Japan.  Although now days they are crafted in various poses; traditionally, the dolls were tall and cylindrical.  They are made on a lathe by hand, one doll at a time.  While visiting Matsushima I took this photograph of a gaggle of Kokeshi dolls in a little shop.  This should give you an idea of what I am talking about.


Kokeshi Dolls
Artist at Work

While browsing the antique area of the Oriental Bazaar, I noticed a whole table of Kokeshi dolls.  Of course I was attracted.  I moved to the table and began checking out the dolls.  Tables in Japan are traditionally low.  The display table at which I was standing was at about knee level, and it supported 30 - 40 dolls, standing up like bowling pins. The clerks explained that these dolls were antiques; and, indeed, as I picked up and inspected each one, I discovered some of them were signed and dated by the artists.   There were several as old as 60-70 years.

Now, pause a moment and picture Bobbie standing at a low table, leaning over to inspect each little doll, looking for just the right one.  They were all approximately the same price, so I wanted to make sure I found an old one.  Picture, also, the shoulder bag I was carrying beginning to shift forward as I leaned.  Chas opened his mouth to caution me, but, alas, he was too late.  My purse swung forward like a pendulum obeying the laws of gravity; and, faster than I could make a correction in posture to avoid the approaching disaster that was already in progress…impact.  

The first doll dropped falling into the one next to it.  One doll fell into another; and instantly we had a table of cylindrical dominoes going every which direction.  Chas and I began grabbing rolling dolls, and I began apologizing.  As fast as Chas could set one up another would fall over. I used every Japanese word for ‘I’m sorry’ I could think of, and they have a lot of them.  Sumimasen!  Gomennasai!  Shitsureishimasu!  I think I might even have said a few things that weren’t in Japanese.  Of course the clerks rushed over to help rescue the falling dolls.  I repeated, ‘I’m sorry’ over and over.  Finally, one of the clerks stopped, touched my arm, and said in perfect English, “Are you alright?”  Uh…no.  I quickly grabbed a doll and headed to the cashier.  After all that, I wanted out of there in a hurry; but, I knew I couldn’t leave without spending money.  Chas even bought two!

The evidence of my shame sits in our favorite tatami room along side her more modern sisters.  She is a reminder that the next time I visit the Oriental Bazaar, I had better go in disguise.  Oh, yeah, Chas says I have to go back. - Bobbie