Kokeshi Dolls

Kokeshi Dolls originated in North-East Japan as wooden toys for children. They began being produced towards the end of the Edo period (1603~1868) by woodwork artisans, called Kiji-shi, who normally made bowls, trays and other tableware by using a lathe. They began to make small dolls in the winter to sell to visitors who came to bathe in the many hot springs near their villages, which was believed to be a cure for the demands of a strenuous agricultural lifestyle.

The popularity of Kokeshi dolls began to spread to other areas, so woodworkers from other hot spring resorts imitated those skills and made their own Kokeshi dolls to sell as souvenirs. They then gradually established their own Kokeshi style. Kokeshi dolls that are made today can be classified into 11 types: Tsugaru, Nanbu, Kijiyama, Naruko, Hijiori, Yamagata, Zao-takayu, Sakunami, Tsuchiyu, Togatta and Yajiro. Kokeshi dolls are very simple in design, originally made on hand powered lathes.

At that time the woodturner would use an ancient hand powered lathe with the help of his wife. It required careful teamwork, while the wife pulled a rope to turn the lathe, the husband planed the wood. As time went by, the kick wheel appeared, it could be used without any assistance. This lathe was used from the middle of the Meiji-era (1868~1912) to the early part of the Showa-era (1926~1989). Today, there is an electric lathe, which dramatically increases productivity. Kokeshi artisans make their own planes and carving tools and have become knowledgeable in forging metals.

The basic design of a Kokeshi doll features a cylindrical body with a round head. Each doll is then delicately hand-painted by the craftsman, so that each work is a reflection of the characteristics of the person who made it. There is a signature on the bottom of the doll so that it is possible to know who made it.

We are happy to present these wonderfully traditional Kokeshi dolls to you and hope you enjoy this amazing and uniquely crafted work.

kokeshi doll
Naruko-Kokeshi Mannojo


Togatta-Kokeshi Kasanegiku




Togatta-Kokeshi Mokume


Tsuchiyu-Kokeshi Kasa


Togatta-Kokeshi Sakurakuzushi


Naruko-Kokeshi Eikichi


Tsuchiyu-Kokeshi Tsubushi


Naruko-Kokeshi Iwazo type