Kokeshi DollsMay 13th, 2009 | By Shane Sakata | Category: History & Culture
While not the kind of dolls that little girls usually play with, kokeshi dolls are instantly recognizable as Japanese. Beautifully painted with traditional Japanese motifs or simply varnished these wooden dolls originated in the Tohoku region of northern Japan during the Edo period (1603-1868).
It is believed that these dolls were originally created by woodwork artisans known as kijiya who made them to sell to the tourists who flocked to the onsen (hot springs) in the area each winter. Now they can be found throughout Japan and, today, kokeshi dolls are considered to be one of the traditional folk arts of Japan.
These whimsical wooden dolls with sweet hand-painted expressions will capture your heart. Traditional kokeshi dolls have no arms or legs and in their simplest from they consist of a long cylindrical body upon which rests a round head. Both the body and the head are hand painted with the body often painted in bright floral patters or with traditional scenic images of Japan and the face consisting of a few that lines somehow give each doll its own character. Some are solemn and others playful and joyous in appearance.
Since World Ward II the look of the kokeshi doll has been expanded to include rotund kokeshi and more elaborate versions of the dolls appear to be dressed in a kimono or other traditional attire and have hair in wooden relief. The shape, size and motifs that adorn modern kokeshi dolls are only limited by the creativity of the maker. All are beautiful in their own way.
Kokeshi dolls can be found in stores throughout Japan and range significantly in price. A mid size kokeshi doll can be purchased for Y2,000 – Y3,000 (USD 20-30) while larger versions from specialty makers with intricate hand-painting can cost much, much more.
Image Credit: Personal Collection & Flickr, Kokeshi