Originally from the north of Japan, the Kokeshi dolls were born in Tohoku, a region famous for its hot spring resorts. Was when the woodworkers of the 19th century, habituated to make bowls and trays, started using their working skills to produce simple dolls to sell them as souvenirs to hot springs visitors. Even though there's no an specific meaning, and due to the wood type it's usually used for making Kokishi dolls, a particularly moist wood called Mizuki, literally "water wood", some Japanese believe that Kokishi dolls are a charms to prevent fire.
Kokeshi dolls are made from a wood that has been seasoned for some months, the craftsman turns and cuts the wood using a lathe, then he polishes it to a fine finish doll form, the head and the body are separately crafted and attached together at the end. The final part is to paint the Kokeshi, this is made by the craftsman who paints the face and the kimono of the doll.
Nowadays Kokeshi Dolls are made following the traditional style but also alternative and creative designs. The "modern" Kokeshi captures the traditional forms but are made with a more shapely body adding features like hair and they're painted with a colorful kimono patterns. Created by "artists" this kind of Kokeshi dolls design are unique to their own creator, the majority are made in Gunma prefecture.
The traditional Kokeshi dolls produced only in the prefectures of Tohoku are made following the simple traditional style, round heads and cylindrical bodies along with the kimono patterns, who are distinctive to the area where they are made and have been handed down from generation to generation of Kokeshi dolls crafts masters.
These days Kokeshi still as one of Japan's traditional arts, check our special Kokeshi Dolls Auction list and begin your Kokeshi collection with J-Subculture!