What is Kokeshi Doll

Kokeshi Dolls are Japanese dolls, originally from northern Japan. They are handmade from wood, have a simple trunk 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. The main characteristic of Kokeshi dolls is their lack of arms or legs.

The origin

Kokeshi was first produced by Kiji-shi (wood artisans) in Shinchi in the Tohoku Region of Northern Japan, where is very famous for its hot spring spa resorts. From the Edo period (1600-1868), Kokeshi making techniques started spreading to other spa areas in North-eastern Japan. Originally, these dolls were made as toys and souvenirs to be sold to people who were visiting the hot springs.

Today, there are two types of Kokeshi dolls are being produced:

Traditional Kokeshi (Dento) Dolls, their shapes and patterns became particular to a certain area and they are classified under eleven types including: Tsuchiyu, Togatta, Yajiro, Naruko, Sakunami, Yamagata, Kijiyama, Nanbu, Tsugaru, Zao-takayu, and Hijioro. They are very simple in their design with round heads and cylindrical limbless bodies. Traditional Kokeshi dolls are only produced in Tohoku region

Creative Kokeshi (Shingata) Dolls allow the artist complete freedom in terms of shape, design and color and were developed after World War II (1945). The Creative kokeshi formed by the free and unrestrained imagination of an individual artist, are manufactured by their unique techniques. Their shapes and designs vary from different artists, and They are not particular to a specific region of Japan; generally creative Kokeshi artists can be found all over the Japan.

Material and Process

There are many types of woods are used for making Kokeshi dolls, normally, cherry tree for darker colour and mizuki tree for lighter colour, sometimes, maple tree and other trees are also used. The woods for Kokeshi dolls, both traditional and creative, have to be left outdoors to season for one to five years before it can be used.

The process of making kokeshi dolls is not very complex, but needs lots of experience and patience, especially, for the painting work. First, the wood needs to be cut and shaped on a lathe, and polished; the head, hair and body normally are made separately, then are attached together later. The artist then finally paint the face, body and hair.





We stock a large collection of creative kokeshi dolls from serveral famous artists in Japan, some of the artists were awarded by Japanese prime minister for their creativeness.