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100 Chahkobi 

Ningyo Heads

(Master Tamaya Shobei IX example top-center)


This is a continuing project where I have challenged myself to carve 100 individual Chahakobi Ningyo Heads.

Chahakobi Ningyo dolls translate to 'Teas Serving Dolls' in Japanese. They are an example of a traditional craft called Karakuri, which is very similar to automata.

They are all carved from yellow cedar, donated by Japanese carpenter friends Tim and Russ.

This is one of my major historical interests, and I was honored  in 2017 to meet Karakuri expert and Master Tamaya Shobei the 9th when visiting Nagoya. I was introduced by a production crew for the program 'Who Wants to Come to Japan?' which broadcasts on Tokyo TV in August of 2017. We spent just over a week with Tamaya-san, filming his attempts to quickly train me on various aspects of Chahakobi Ningyo. One of the most important things I felt I needed to understand was the steps in carving the dolls heads. 

The dolls heads have to be carved in a special manner so that the expression changes with the light and the tilt of the head.

On this page I will upload  my latest attempts as I complete them. Sometime I may do a few at a time, on none for a month or so. It depends on what ideas my mind needs to materialize I guess. I am by no means very good at the tradition look of these dolls, but I am improving I think? You can also find the 'fresh ones' on my Instagram account, (a link is in the top right corner) and various cat photos. Of course.

Of course to do this properly I should apprentice with Tamaya-san, but unfortunately my Japanese is not very good. (It would be a too much a imposition until I'm better at the language. It's rather technical in places!) To improve, I figure by the time I make it to 100 of these carvings, and using a raw dolls head generously given to me by Tamaya-san for reference, I should be not too bad.

On a side note, this is awfully fun. I find that different personalities come out in each face. It's almost like I'm being visited by spirits...

'please note, the camera is not too nice to these small doll heads, they are a little distorted.)
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