Kokeshi Dolls

May 13th, 2009 | By | Category: History & Culture

Kokeshi Dolls Japan 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.

Modern Kokeshi Dolls

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

WP Greet Box icon
Hello there! If you are new here, you might want to subscribe to the RSS feed for updates.

Join JapanSoc Today!
The #1 social bookmarking site for Japan-related blogs, news and people.

Japanese Street Art

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a comment »

  1. Now I know what these wooden dolls are called. I saw Yodobashi selling these cute little things from 1,500-3,000 yen.

    Great write-up, Shane!

  2. Kokeshi are beautiful!
    I’ve got 3 of my own, which look very similair to the last photo. Very cute! ^^

  3. Could you please tell me or give me a picture of a doll that I purchased in Japan back in 1992 that resembles an american Barbie Doll. My dolls that were stolen were from Japan and were dressed in Kimonos. I purchased them at Tokoyo International Airport for $100 american dollars.

    any assistance you could give would be greatly appreciated. Thank you,,,,,,,Sandy

  4. Sandy, I’m so sorry to hear that your dolls were stolen. The doll in this image may resemble the dolls you purchased: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kimono_doll.JPG

    There are so many different styles of dolls in Japan that it would be hard for me to provide you with additional information or images of the dolls you had stolen.

  5. I have found a picture of the dolls I had stolen… They are called Jenny Dolls… But I do have a doll such as these. It was giving to me along with several other momentos from my time in Japan!

Leave Comment