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* This project thema is "A Grateful Smile".

Kokeshi are traditional handmade Japanese wooden dolls which are originally from Tohoku, the northern region of Japan. The figures are simple with round head and limbless bodies. We feel the warmth of wood. The features and pattern of painting vary depending on where Kokeshi dolls are made. As the dolls are all hand painted, there are no two Kokeshi with identical smiles. When I see the eyes, the mouth and the presence of Kokeshi, my heart feels calm down and I can hear her voice of her heart. Kokeshi has become famous as a representative souvenir of Tohoku all over Japan in time. Now, Kokeshi became a synonymous with Japanese retro-feel pop culture. It is even said that the word “kawaii” has its roots in Kokeshi.

One day my friend gave me a Kokeshi as a souvenir. It reminded me of my old days. Just then, my heart was back in those days. When I was a child, we had one in our house. My mother’s home town was abundant with rich nature. The place produced wooden materials for Kokeshi. Kokeshi was always there with me and shared joys and sorrows with each other. Kokeshi had healed my mind and I had felt comfortable as if I was wrapped with velvety cotton at that time.

Kokeshi has stayed far away from the digital age. She has stayed the same as she was back then. The craftsman’s spirit is put into her. The reunion with “her” touched my heart. Nowadays, information of digitals and words has saturated our daily lives and we are exhausted from them. The smiling face of Kokeshi brings us peace and quiet. I surely felt “the spiritual power” from Kokeshi back then. I want to express the power through my photographs. Now it is my turn to give what I got from Kokeshi back. I have released the shutter with my thoughts of Kokeshi.

* This project thema is "小さな彼女への、微笑み返し".

東北地方の風土が生んだ、小さな木製の人形たち、「こけし」。その特徴は、頭部と胴体だけ、という極端にシンプルな造形と、温もりのある肌触り、そして土地ごとの様々な表情や筆模様。職人一人ひとりの手描きによって、人形たちも十人十色の微笑みを宿す。その目が、口が、たたずまいが、私たちに優しく語りかける。やがて「こけし」は、東北地方を代表する土産物として、その名を全国に広めていった。今や、 日本のレトロなポップカルチャーの代名詞となり、「カワイイ」のルーツは「こけし」にある、とまで言われるようになった。