Sakurai Kokeshi 5th Generation
櫻井昭寛 / Akihiro Sakurai
Born in 1951 in Naruko, Akihiro is the 5th-generation Kokeshi craftsperson of the Sakurai family. Inheriting the spirit of his father and master Shoji, he does not restrain himself with only traditional types. Three-time winner of the Best Kokeshi Award with his traditional Kokeshi, he never ceases to question himself about what Kokeshi can be, actively exploring new possibilities.
The 58th All Japan Kokeshi Festival, MEXT Minister Award and Kokeshi Festival Director's Award
The winning entry attempted an early revival period of Iwazo Onuma and a very polished piece was produced. Its large size and substantial heft, its unpretentious and peaceful face, and its two full flowers are all wonderful.
The Fukazawa Collection contains an Iwazo with this style of flower (created circa Showa 13 = 1938). If possible, I recommend a visual comparison of this kokeshi with the Iwazo from that collection, exhibited in the Japan Kokeshi Museum. It is not simply a copy, but a fresh and vibrant creation made with Akihiro's new sensibility.
The 60th All Japan Kokeshi Festival, MEXT Minister Award and Kokeshi Festival Director's Award
After winning the MEXT Minster Award two years ago for his Iwazo style, at this year's 60th festival he was awarded the same award for his Eikichi style. Regardless of past awards, the judges evaluated only the submitted entry itself, and it received remarkable approval.
Akihiro's past kokeshi creations tried to approach the originals and had strong intent and tension, but this year they became innocent kokeshi which in fact had a sense of maturity.
Akihiro has already absorbed Iwazo Onuma and Eikichi Shoji into himself, so that his kokeshi are not recreations but rather seem like natural productions of his own style. They are fresh yet mellow koskeshi, which stand like a small girl in a dream in a field bursting with flowers.
The 61st All Japan Kokeshi Festival, METI Tohoku Director Award
After winning the highest award last year, this year he has taken on a new style of Eikichi Shoji and again created a very attractive piece.
Akihiro's father, Shoji Sakurai, also attempted Iwazo Onuma and Eikichi Shoji styles and created many successful works. However, Akihiro's Iwazo- and Eikichi-style kokeshis have a different flavor than his father's.
While Shoji pursued accurate and exacting perfection through superior technique, Akihiro's works have expressions, body patterns, and forms which seem to sway and move with overflowing emotion as they exhibit a fresh and splendid attractiveness.
With different approach from his father, Akihiro has freed himself from a simple pursuit of techniques, establishing his own world.
The 58th All Japan Kokeshi Competition, Prime Minster Award
The Sakurai family, which has made Naruko traditional kokeshi its family business, is known to have the oldest lineage of the many Naruko kokeshi artisans.
The family has produced many famous artisans since before WWII, and it is highly honored as a prestigious family.
His father, artisan Shoji, has twice won the Prime Minister Award at the All Japan Kokeshi Competition.
In this piece, the subtle curves of the kabura-atamaradish-shaped head are beautiful, and particularly wonderful technique birigannawas used with a special kind of bulged plane to form it.
The body pattern features rampantly drawn chrysanthemums, which are colorful and superbly executed. The changing hues and the detailed butterflies scattered throughout the white space also show excellent workmanship.
The expression is gentle and the harmony with the form is exquisite. This masterpiece invites a sense of nostalgia.
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