There are many stories surrounding the exact origin of Kokeshi Dolls. One of the most widely told tales dates back to as early as the 19th century, to the Tohoku region of Northern Japan, where the dolls were first said to have been made by local farmers to give as toys to their children.
Generally bought as Japanese mementos or to use as ornaments, many also believe the dolls to have spiritual significance as well as the power to prevent fire. This suspicion is mainly down to mizuki, a very moist wood that is widely used to make the dolls from.
Kokeshi are carefully crafted by skilled craftsmen, who cut them out with a lathe before polishing them to a fine finish. The head and body of Kokeshi are made separately before being attached together by means of a special plug.
Their faces and patterns are then hand painted onto their large round heads and cylindrical limbless shaped bodies, usually to give the impression that they are wearing kimono. Another common belief is that the colours and designs used on each doll to be unique to the specific area where they were made.
Kokeshi Dolls today
Kokeshi are celebrated as one of Japans folk arts. They still embody the simplistic, colourful look that they are so well known for however they can also found in more modern, creative designs.
These contemporary versions were first seen after the Second World War and are mostly found in the towns near Tokyo. And although they still embrace the traditional shape, there is no limit to the types of designs, colours and features that the craftsman choose to use on them.
Kokeshi Dolls - Couples
We have been buying our award-winning Kokeshi from our supplier in Japan for many years and our relationship is now one based on friendship as much as business. We love going to visit them tucked away in the picturesque Japanese countryside, nosing around their massive timber yard, wandering around their vast showroom admiring Kokeshi old and new, before going on to enjoy a delicious Japanese meal together. Widely regarded as some of Japan’s national treasures, these skilled craftsmen have cherished Kokeshi for many years and like us, remain as passionate about these cute little wooden dolls as ever. Jez
At The Japanese Shop our Kokeshi Dolls are handmade from cherry or mizuki trees using traditional methods that mostly feature girls’ faces and gorgeous floral designs. Each doll is individually named by the craftsman who made it to ensure that they all radiate their own unique personality.
Buy any 2 Kokeshi Dolls from The Japanese Shop and receive a FREE Kokeshi Key Ring and a FREE Japanese Greetings Card.