Kato Tatsuo is a great artisa who makes kokeshi dolls that I respect and admire a lot. During my travels in Japan I was lucky enough to meet him twice, in October 2018 and in May 2019. On both occasions I was hosted at his home, where he showed me his beautiful works. What struck me immediately in addition to the beauty of his kokeshi was his personality, he is a very kind man, helpful, nice and always smiling. At our first meeting he immediately put me at ease, introduced me to his family, his wife and daughter Katsura, and made me sit at his home offering me a tea with wagashi (Japanese sweets) and delicious pickled gherkins. from his wife giving me the opportunity to get to know him a little better and to ask him some questions.
F.I.:" At what age did you start making kokeshi? "
K.T .: “Kokeshi entered my world at the age of 20. At school I had studied painting and had a passion for kokeshi, so I started my apprenticeship with the kokeshi master Sansaku Sekiguchi, I was his student for 10 years and from him I learned the "rokuro" technique (a traditional woodturning technique) and sculpture ".
F.I .: "From what or from whom do you get the inspiration to create your works?"
K.T .: “I am struck by seeing and observing the work of a great artist. I often go to Tokyo to the Nitten Building for the Japan Fine Arts Exhibition. Nitten is the most popular of all major arts organizations in Japan. I like to admire the Japanese paintings called Nihonga ".
After tea we moved to a room adjacent to the one we were in, where some of his works were exhibited. I love his kokeshi for the expression on their faces, for the often pronounced noses, for the motifs painted on the kimono.
F.I .: "What kind of wood, tools and colors do you use to make your kokeshi?"
K.T .: “I use woods such as keyaki, hiba, mizuki and enjyu. And use of the colors which are called Mikashion from Germany and pigments. Red Keyaki (Japanese red zelkova) is the most precious wood, Mizuki (giant dogwood) is the most used and popular wood for making kokeshi, Hiba belongs to the Japanese hinoki cypress family, and Enju (the Japanese pagoda tree) is a precious dark brown wood with beautiful veins ".
F.I .: "Do you have a favorite motif that you like to use on your works?"
K.T .: “I love the night atmosphere. I make many works that have the moon as a motif. And I also like the fox ".
F.I .: "How many awards did you win and which was the most exciting?"
K.T .: "The most recent and significant awards were the Contemporary Master Craftsman (2011) of the Ministry of Economy, the Prime Minister's Award (2017), and the Medal of Honor with Yellow Ribbon (2015) which he awarded me directly the emperor".
F.I .: What is your favorite work?
K.T .: My favorite right now is "Yuuzuki" and "Oiran and Kamuro."
F.I .: "From Oiran, I love his kimono and especially the hair ornaments. I would love to have it in my collection, it's a bit over budget for me, who knows maybe someday".
I thank Kato Tatsuo for his availability, for granting me the interview, and for having the pleasure of creating for me some wonderful works that then arrive directly in Italy from his laboratory and can be purchased in my online shop.