#22     January 2002
This page is written monthly by Harumi Okochi,
and sometimes Harumi's friends join.
We'd be happy if you look at our previous issues.


New Year's i for Boys
\Japanese Tops\

Hello, friends.
I hope you are all safe and well and calm in the beginning of 2002.
Today, I'd like to tell you about the "tops" made here in Karatsu.

I have heard that there are varieties of tops in every place of the world.
The shapes, colors, playing rules, must differ, but the idea is same both in the East and the West. What a happy coincidence it is!

In Japan, a top is a boy's toy in new year time. How I envied my brother who was happy with a new top on the morning of the new year day!

A top is called "Koma" in Japanese. It is said that the history of Koma in Japan is very old. It came from China through Korean Peninsula where there was a country Japanese people called "Koma" at that time.
Isn't that fascinating? A toy that came to us from far way and from long ago.

Well, I will introduce you Mr. Koichi Kumamoto, the third generation of Koma making in Karatsu.

Koichi's grandfather Yoshitaro came to Karatsu from Yanagawa, Fukuoka Prefecture, and settled down here because of the abundance of the material beechwood.
Yoshitaro's son Hidetoshi also made Komas, but he died when Koichi was 16. Hidetoshi's wife Saeko tried her best to support the family becoming a Koma craftsman herself. She made beautiful Komas. Then Koichi succeeded and the mother and the son together made Komas.
Saeko passed away last year.

We visited Koichi's new studio in the mountain side of Karatsu. He welcomed us so warmly and let us take pictures while he was working.

"Matebashii", a kind of beech tree
Dried naturally for one year.
Proper material should be straight.
Selected and barked.
Cut into small pieces of columnar shape.
Shaped@on a wheel.
So quick!
Shape the face side of the top on a different wheel.
Assistant workers put colors.
Then varnished..
On a small wheel, the top spins and the brush stays on one point.
Various types of Koma

The biggest one is an ornament
for the New Year Season.
Koma has long been a motif of Japanese dancing or Kabuki, or other theater entertainment. The beauty of the colors, dazzling fascination of a magical hand, and the happy memories of childhood.
Spinning, first waving unsteadily, then gradually settling and sleeping, it becomes most still. When the top sleeps, I always make a wish to let it turn forever.

At the beginning of this year, I will wish upon a Koma, "Let the world be turning still!"

Thank you very much for having visited my web-site. I really hope I can see you again sometime.

                                                                  Yours, Harumi Okochi
  Mail to Harumi Okochi