Tohoku’s most famous toy: Kokeshi

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Do you know what “kokeshi” are?  They are a traditional Japanese toy that originated long ago in the Tohoku region.  Nowadays they are not actually played with by children, but are instead a decoration in the home.  (Tohoku is where I live.  It’s the northern part of the island of Honshu.)

I have always been enchanted by kokeshi.  These wooden dolls are so simple, yet eye-catching.   There are different regions that make kokeshi, and each region has its own style.

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This was a present for my mom last summer.   Cute, don’t you think?

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This is at the Fukushima City train station, in the bullet train section.  We Tohokuites are proud of the craft of kokeshi, rightfully so.

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Kokeshi are said to have develped originally at onsen (hot springs.)   When one goes to an onsen in Fukushima Prefecture, one might bring home a kokeshi doll as a souvenir of the trip.

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These were given to me by my fellow foreign Tohoku American wife, Laurel Kamada.  She was cleaning her home and couldn’t keep everything.  Very sad for her, but lucky for me.  Thank you, Laurel San!

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Notice the design of its face.  Each doll is constructed and painted by hand.  Its personality really shines through, don’t you think?

If you ever come to the Tohoku region, a kokeshi is something you might want to buy!  By the way, nowadays, other areas in Japan sell their own versions of kokeshi.  But these are not the REAL kokeshi!   But Kyoto kokeshi or Osaka kokeshi are still cute.  I won’t be snobby about it.

(But we all know Tohoku kokeshi are the best.)

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