My Kokeshi Hunting: Defying Logic

First, they were three.

original kokeshi

Instantly and surprisingly, I was fascinated by these adorable wooden figures which I christened “The Makioka Sisters” named after Jun’ichirō Tanizaki‘s greatest Japanese novel of the twentieth century. Doing it was analogous to reminiscing one of the most challenging oral tasks in college with two of my best friends, Ma. Socorro Sabandal-Saballa and Erlinda Dacayan-Caerlang, as we were assigned to tackle this novel in our Afro-Asian Literature class. We nailed our report and had our favorite professor, Dr. Venancio L. Mendiola, referring to us as “The Makiokas” from that time on.
In the real story though, there were four of them — Tsuruko, Sachiko, Yukiko, and Taeko. The number of the main characters was not matched by these Japanese wooden dolls which I bought for only Php 100.00. In my desire to complete the four dolls since I have another very good female friend, Luzviminda Ramos-Valeriano, to be typified by this Japanese creation, I googled the internet and was directed to how these dolls are really called. Kokeshi. The sound of the word is as cute as how my first three dolls look. I read on and found out that they have a common appearance —  a simple trunk, an enlarged head, a body painted with floral design  in red, black, and sometimes yellow, and covered with a layer of wax. One marked characteristic of these Japanese wooden dolls is the lack of arms and legs. Despite appearing incapacitated, these kokeshi magnetized me. I told myself that I would begin a new hobby — kokeshi doll collection. 
This week was allotted for my first leg of kokeshi hunting. I had my first destination in mind. This was the Japanese surplus store along Zapote-Alabang road which I have been traversing for the past five years. And within this length of time that I have been passing by the shop, nothing pulled me to enter and explore it. Of course, I am now singing a different tune. 
Getting inside the store last Monday afternoon and seeing the wide array of furniture, house decors, mugs, kitchen essentials, trinkets and other novelty items, I was unmindful of the humidity in that outlet and of the sweat that had profusely come out of my pores. My eyes continued sweeping the spacious interior while wishing silently that I would find what I came for. 
Then, BINGO! There on top of the cabinets were kokeshi dolls waiting to be finally liberated from their dusty and congested dwelling.

20150615_150554-1 20150615_150602

I approached them quietly without taking my eyes off them like a cat who had seen her target. I think I was on the verge of drooling. I could visualize myself having those kokeshi images projected from my eyes in a comical way while my tongue stuck out. Ha-ha. Oh, my! My feeling was more intense than the first time I met my soon-to-be husband in 1995. Beat that! 
Realizing my over excitement and happiness, I composed myself as I began picking the dolls and mentally writing my haggling script. I had to choose my words well if I wanted to take them home. 
A glaring fact: these kokeshi could be pricey depending on their size, design, and authenticity which could be confirmed by the maker’s signature at the bottom of the doll. I thought I would be lucky in getting the dolls at a very low price just like my very first kokeshi dolls. Thus, my desire to have all the eight kokeshi put my haggling skills to the test with the female owner, Miss Nieva.
Did I succeed? I believe I did. 


Great finds and good buy. I was grinning from ear to ear on my way home. At long last, the Makioka sisters are reunited and complete. 


Then, I have to set up the others on our corner table and make sure that each of them is given fair exposure. 


Having finished the arrangement, I sat near them and allowed my eyes to shift from one kokeshi to another. Their unique appearance and pretty faces evoke an unfathomable kind of sereneness and comfort. I guess the sudden affinity I had with them was the reason why I had a deep slumber that night. Or, was I put under a voodoo spell that right after my purchase of these eight kokeshi, I had to go to the second Japanese surplus store which was first visited by a good friend who unexpectedly showed his genuine support to this recent passion of mine by gifting me these kokeshi?
Now, take a closer look. Do my dolls have a semblance with the poppets? Nah. And so with my newly purchased kokeshi that Tuesday. 

20150616_202225 20150616_202253 20150616_204810 20150616_204703

The shop at President’s Avenue, Parañaque City is selling more kokeshi than the first one I went to which I later on found out was their Las Piñas City branch. What a small entrepreneurial world indeed!

20150616_123829 20150616_124858-1 20150616_124912-1

Setting foot on that second shop and purchasing my next set of kokeshi kept me in high spirits the whole day especially when I bought this pair at a mark down price from Artis, which has been a favorite destination along Aguirre Street  and where I met my first three kokeshi. 

20150616_132348 20150616_132327-1

My being an impulsive buyer has struck again but it’s more of my giving in to this fresh appetite for this recently discovered Japanese artistry. 


I know this may be labeled as a vice or an addiction by some, but on unexpected instances in our lives, we reach a point when our quest for our source of happiness defies the art of reason. 

Yes, I am guilty as charged. 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s