Kokeshi artisans

Usaburo Okamoto I

After the war, in Shibukawa, Gunma Prefecture, Usaburo Okamoto, the founder of Usaburo Kokeshi, started the manufacture of inkstones and stone plates using an artificial stone he developed and metal craft products known as antimony. Then in 1950, he began to make kokeshi.

Unhampered by past techniques and ideas of kokeshi-making, Usaburo introduced special machines for producing kokeshi and adopted a method of carving and burning using Nichrome wire in the kokeshi painting process, for which only brushes had been used before. Usaburo also studied the possibility of using keyaki and chestnut, trees having beautiful grains, in addition to table dogwood, a commonly used material. After considerable effort, he succeeded in making kokeshi and flower vases that featured a new sensitivity from these trees using his original techniques.

  • Born in 1917 in Shinto, Gunma Prefecture;
  • Started kokeshi manufacture in 1950;
  • Winner of many prizes, including the Prize of the Minister of International Trade and Industry;
  • Died in July 2009 at the age of 91.
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