What is Kokeshi?

What is Kokeshi?

‘Kokeshi’ (kokeshi dolls) are a traditional wooden craft in the northern part of Japan, ‘Tohoku’ region.

Those dolls have been crafted for over 160 years. The dolls are very simple with only head and body, which were made with a wooden lathe.


At the beginning, before mass production appeared, dolls were made by woodworkers for their children during their work. Children loved and played with kokeshi. They gave the dolls hugs and piggy back rides. The simple dolls are easy to grasp and hold by children.


Around the 1920’s, while the Japanese lifestyle was changing, kokeshi dolls ceased to be children toys gradually and became interior products. The simple and natural dolls can warm the atmosphere of a room and popular with modern people.


There are 3 categories

・Traditional style: they are classified in 12 styles, which were named from each place of origin, and have been made for over 160 years. Usually, kokeshi craftsmen make only one traditional style. We call it ‘Dento’ in Japanese.

・Shingata style: This style was started around the 1950’s as a new style kokeshi for souvenirs at places like hot springs. The definition was ‘Kokeshi dolls, which can be mass produced’.

Especially, if the kokeshi have some sightseeing spots names and scenic paintings on the body, we call it ‘Omiyage (souvenir) kokeshi’.

The other, there are some kinds of Shingata, which means modern style kokeshi by traditional style kokeshi craftsmen in that age.

 ・Sosaku kokeshi : These style dolls are mainly made in Gunma prefecture, which is the Kanto region. This category doesn’t have any rules. There are variety of designed wooden kokeshi dolls.


The modern age of traditional style kokeshi craftsmen are creating more cute-kawaii kokeshi dolls now. We would like to help you to meet a unique Japanese culture and explore kokeshi world on our site.



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