Kokeshi—traditional doll from Tohoku Region

In my last post, the name of the book was: “The Little Kokeshi Doll from Fukushima.”

Kokeshi Dolls are traditional dolls. They are originally from the Tohoku Region, which is where Fukushima is located.

For us here in Tohoku, Kokeshi have a very recognizable shape: tall, slender, round. A traditional kokeshi keeps to a specific color sheme: Usually red, green, black. Kokeshi probably date back to the Edo Period (1603-1867.) Visitors would travel to hot springs here in Tohoku and purchase the kokeshi dolls as souvenirs.


Nowadays some (many? all?) Americans are familiar with Japanese kokeshi dolls.

However, when American think about kokeshi dolls, they are usually referring to modern kokeshi dolls, also called “Creative Kokeshi.”

For example, these are modern creative kokeshi dolls:

You can see the shape of a modern creative type of Kokeshi is very different than the traditional type. And a modern style can be painted in pretty much in any design.

(These two modern style kokeshi are from the Rakuten website: https://item.rakuten.co.jp/corazon/c/0000000773/


A few years ago, my son and I went to a workshop where we painted traditional kokeshi.

The above photo shows a map of Tohoku. Each region has its own particular type of kokeshi doll.

Futhermore, the craftsperson who made the doll will sign his or her name on the bottom.

Kokeshi dolls are a form of art.

First, the face is painted on.

In a workshop like this, we are not allowed to paint just any sort of face. We have to adhere to the traditional type.

In order to paint the stripes around the body, the wooden doll is spun around on this machine.

It wasn’t as easy as it looks!

I think, always, when one actually tries to do an artform for oneself, then we respect that artform so much more because we realize how difficult it is.

Finished Kokeshi. These are professional ones. (Not made by amateurs like me and my son.)

My son is finished painting his kokeshi. One doll was given to his Japanese grandmother and one to his American grandmother.

(And yes, this was several years ago…so my son does NOT look like this anymore!) ❤

About kireikireikireiI am a mom.

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