Kokeshi (Japanese wooden Dolls)

If you have been to Japan, chances are you would probably have seen the kokeshi dolls (Japanese wooden dolls)  while you were in Japan.

What is kokeshi dolls?

Kokeshi is the traditional Japanese wooden dolls for children inspired by the climate and culture of the Tohoku district.

Tohoku area is located in northeast in the main island of Japan.

These dolls are handmade from wood, and unlike other dolls for kids, they have a simple straight body and an enlarged head with a few thin, painted lines to define the face.

The body has a floral design painted in red, black, and sometimes yellow, and covered with a layer of wax.

One characteristic of kokeshi dolls is that they do not have arms and legs. The bottom is typically marked with the signature of the artist.

History of Kokeshi dolls..

Kokeshi is originated from end of edo period (1804-29 )and it was originally made by craftsman as souvenir for visitors’ kids who visited the hot spring (Onsen) in Tohoku area.

Tohoku region is famous for hot spring (Onsen).

It became popular as kids toys but later on, popularity went down with arrival of new dolls made by different materials.

After that, it became popular among those who collect kokeshi dolls as folk crafts.

Interesting thing about kokeshi is that, there are many types of kokeshi dolls depending on the region.

According to Japan atlas website, in the six prefectures of the Tohoku region there are a total of 10 types of “Kokeshi.”

The most dominant type is the Naruko variety (you can twist the neck and it makes squeaking sound.) originally made in Miyagi Prefecture, which can also be found in Akita, Iwate, and Yamagata prefectures.

These days not only dolls with a traditional style but also creative Kokeshi that incorporate contemporary taste are being made.

Some people have suggested that in “matryoshka,” the nesting Russian dolls that originated in the nineteenth century, some influence of “Kokeshi” can be seen.

You can read the full article on kokeshi here

How Kokeshi is made..

According to kidshouldseethins website,the wood used to make Kokeshi dolls are from Cornel, Mono maple, Cherry trees and Pagoda.

Trees are cut and dried during winter time, and artisans continue to dry them enough to shape them on a potter’s wheel with a plane or a knife, called Bankaki. The artisans draw the Kokeshi’s face and body, then apply wax on it.

You can read the full article on kidshouldseenthis website here.

Here is the general steps to make kokeshi.

  1. Wood is cut and left to dry
  2. 6 months later, it is cut into smaller pieces (to the size of kokeshi dolls)
  3. Then, edges are shaved and rounded off
  4. The wood is roughly shaped into the doll with a plane on the lathe and further shaped with a smaller plane
  5. The surface is filed with a paper file
  6. The face and body are drawn on and painted with a brush
  7. White wax or silicon wax is applied on the latheand the surface is polished.Many kokeshi is painted with girls faces and floral design on the body

Here is the video where you can watch how the kokeshi dolls here made

Wouldn’t the craftsmanship be amazing?

If you happened to be visiting Miyagi prefecture around Naruko city for hot spring (Onsen), drop by and check out their kokeshi festival.

Here is the official festival information site for kokeshi festival. The website itself is in Japanese but you can see the pictures there and if you like to ask questions regarding the festival, e-mail to info@naruko.gr.jp

Aug 16, 2016 | 1 | Japan

One Response to “Kokeshi (Japanese wooden Dolls)”

  1. johnnie maleszewski Says:

    Loved this it was very interesting! You must be so excited to go and visit your family soon!
    Thanks for sharing!

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