kokeshiThe Japan Foundation Los Angeles will present a talk by Manami Okazaki on “Kokeshi: The Tohoku Artisan Spirit” on Thursday, April 17, at 7 p.m.

Kokeshi are traditional dolls that are made of wood and are characterized by their lack of arms or legs. They are produced in the Tohoku region of Japan and were originally a children’s toy, although they are more often used as a form of decoration nowadays and displayed in the home. Abroad, kokeshi dolls are considered to be an icon of Japan, and reflect Japanese aesthetic sensibilities with their simple, elegant and minimalist designs.

Manami Okazaki
Manami Okazaki

Okazaki is a journalist and author originally from Australia, now based in Japan. Among her best-selling titles are the recent books “Kawaii: Japan’s Culture of Cute” (Prestel), “Kokeshi: From Tohoku with Love” (Kingyo), “Kicks Japan: Japanese Sneaker Culture” (Mark Batty), and “Wabori: Traditional Japanese Tattoos” (Kingyo). Her books have been featured in newspapers and magazines such as The Independent, The Japan Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, O Globo and Vogue.

She has also contributed to over 50 publications worldwide, including The Wall Street Journal’s Scene Asia, The Japan Times and Transit magazine, and has given talks at the Foreign Correspondents Club Tokyo and the Japan Expo in Paris (2011, 2013).

In 2012 and 2013, Okazaki traveled extensively around Tohoku, a region she feels a strong affinity with, as her grandparents were from the coastal town of Onagawa — one of the areas hardest hit by the 2011 tsunami. The result of her research was “Kokeshi: From Tohoku with Love,” a charity book published in 2013.

In her talk, Okazaki will cover the various types of kokeshi, the production process, as well as the bucolic regions where they are made in Tohoku, how they were affected by 3/11, and how kokeshi relates to contemporary aesthetic sensibilities like kawaii culture. She will bring kokeshi dolls and photographic prints for a pop-up exhibit.

JFLA is located at 5700 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 100, Los Angeles. Street parking is available. No parking validations provided.

Admission free, but RSVP required. For more information, go to www.jflalc.org.

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