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A popular iconic symbol of Japan is the Kokeshi. A simple wooden human form sculpture consisting of a cylinder body and a globular head. This simple design fits squarely within the design aesthetic of the 20th century. Kokeshi started to be made in the 19th century by farmers in the Tohoku region of Northern Japan as a winter pastime. Originally, the creation of wood dolls turned on a lathe and painted, were created as play objects for the children of the village. This folk art from the heart of the Mingei region of Japan where most of the Japanese hot springs (onsen) are located, became widely collected in the 20th century. With the ease of travel by rail and car, the onsen became major tourist destinations. The wooden dolls became souvenirs of enjoyable and memorable trips. Kokeshi became so popular that other regions of Japan started to develop their own Kokeshi style, as well.

Today one can collect these wonderful treasures of wood artistry in a variety of forms. They are divided into two types: Dento Kokeshi are the original types produced by the ten families of Kokeshi production. The other type, Sosaku Kokeshi, reflect individual interpretations of the art form. Museums and competitions exist in Japan just on the topic of Kokeshi alone. Collections have been formed abroad in the post war era from savvy travelers and interested foreigners having resided in Japan. A special thanks to Etsuko Tazawa in identifying these forms and for translating the signatures. Also a big "Thank You" to Shirlee Funk for permission to post her marvelous extensive article from the Winter 2003 issue of the Ningyo Journal on Dento Kokeshi, a Japanese Asian Doll Enthusiasts publication. Please enjoy the selection presented here.

For further reading on this subject, please go to the article posted on-line:

Northern Japan Traditional Kokeshi, Ningyo Journal Winter 2003, J.A.D.E., by Shirlee Funk.


CT60013 Sosaku Kokeshi
18" high, $1,400

CT60010 Sosaku Kokeshi
7-1/2" high, $260
CT60012 Sosaku Kokeshi
10-1/8" high, $190
UH30112 Naruko Kokeshi
12" high, $190
UH30111 Naruko Kokeshi
12" high, $190
CT60008 Sosaku Kokeshi
7-1/4" high, $190
CT60009 Sosaku Kokeshi
9-1/4" high, $150
UH30145 Yajirou Kokeshi
17-1/2" high, $125
UH30129 Sosaku Hina Kokeshi
6-3/8" high, $90
UH30107 Zao Kokeshi
14-1/2" high, $280
UH30143 Naruko Kokeshi
11-7/8" high, $75
UH30134 Sosaku style Kokeshi
8" high, $60
UH30141 Togatta Kokeshi
6" high, $45
UH30115
Togatta Kokeshi,
9-1/2" high, $60
UH30110
Togatta Kokeshi,
9-1/4" high, $60

For further reading on this subject, please go to our on-line article:
Northern Japan Traditional Kokeshi, Ningyo Journal Winter 2003, by Shirlee Funk

For further reading about Japanese Ningyo, please go to our on-line articles :

Circa 1989: Japanese Samurai Dolls, by Timothy Mertel
Arts of Asia, September/October 1986: Antique Japanese Festival Dolls, by Timothy Mertel
Daruma #17, Winter 1998: The Hina Matsuri - A Living Tradition, by Alan Pate
Daruma #14, Spring 1997: Musha Ningyo - Portrait of Boy's Day, by Alan Pate
Arts of Asia, July/August 1996: Gosho-Ningyô Palace Dolls, by Timothy Mertel

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