Forgotten Dolls

an encyclopedia of dolls and doll collecting

Vintage Japanese wooden kokeshi dolls


Vintage Japanese wooden kokeshi dolls

What are kokeshi? Kokeshi are wooden peg-style dolls. They are handmade from cherry or dogwood and painted with a simple facial design and a floral design on the body to represent robes. Once painted, they are sealed with a layer of lacquer or wax to protect the designs. Though the originals were intended as children's toys, they are a popular collectible item.

New kokeshi art dolls are constantly being designed and produced for collectors to enjoy.

Kokeshi history

This style of doll originated during the Edo period (1600 to 1868) in Northern Japan. The first kokeshi dolls were created as souvenirs for those who visited the hot springs in the region. The design was based on the simple one-piece wooden dolls enjoyed by peasant children.

After World War II, the art form blossomed and spread through all Japan. The traditional forms were expanded, and new styles were developed as the kokeshi became increasingly prevalent in popular culture.

Types of traditional kokeshi dolls

Naruko kokeshi dolls

Naruko kokeshi are one of the older types of kokeshi from which others draw inspiration. They can be identified by their cylindrical squared-shouldered bodies marked with a chrysanthemum pattern.

Togatta kokeshi dolls

The Togatta kokeshi are remarkable for being large-headed and unstable in an area prone to earthquakes. The body is extremely narrow by comparison and is marked with floral designs. The nose is an inverted v-shape.

Zao takayu kokeshi dolls

Zao takayu kokeshi are typically described as "stout" or "stocky". They have large heads and short bodies with a flared bottom. The distinguishing feature of these kokeshi is the long drooping nose painted on the face.

Hijiori kokeshi dolls

Hijiori kokeshi can be distinguished by their large heads and squared shoulders. They frequently have floral patterns down the body and clearly defined eyes.

Kijiyama kokeshi dolls

Kijiyama kokeshi can be identified by their distinctive narrow long faces and bob-style haircuts. They are painted as though they are wearing patterned aprons over their kimono.

Yajiro kokeshi dolls

The defining feature of the Yajiro kokeshi doll is the wasp-waist design of the body. The head is large by comparison and is painted to wear a skullcap.

Tsuchiyu kokeshi dolls

Tsuchiyu kokeshi are known for having small heads and narrow bodies with a flared bottom. The body is painted around with a striped pattern.

Sakunami kokeshi dolls

Sakunami kokeshi dolls can be distinguished by the large heads with a single straight hair at the top of the head. Their bodies are quite narrow by comparison to the head.

Yamagata kokeshi dolls

The Yamagata kokeshi are similar in design to the Sakunami kokeshi with a large head and narrow body. The body is painted with floral designs.

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