The Kokeshi, traditional Japanese dolls, were born more than 150 years ago in the Tohoku region, in the north of Japan. Carved and painted by hand by kiji-shi, Japanese craftsmen, these wooden dolls were sold to tourists coming to the north for the hot springs, known as onsens. With their cylindrical shape topped by a round head, the Kokeshi symbolize the desire to have a healthy child. These days, Japanese Kokeshi dolls can be given as a sign of love or friendship.
Kokeshi, the wooden Japanese doll
In Japan, there are many traditional dolls with different shapes and meanings. Among them, the Kokeshi have conquered the whole world with their atypical shape, with no arms or legs. Originating from the Tohoku region, these dolls are handmade by woodworkers called kiji-shi. Before being sold as souvenirs to Japanese tourists at the end of the Edo period, Kokeshi were used as toys for children.
There are several hypotheses about the etymological origin of the word Kokeshi. One of them depicts a dark part of the history of this doll. For some researchers, these statuettes would have been made in memory of the children sacrificed in times of famine.
Japan being known for its richness and cultural diversity, the Kokeshi are no exception. Proof of this is that there are more than a hundred different styles depending on their region of origin. Vintage or modern, these ethnic dolls are magnificent decorative objects to be displayed on a shelf or a dresser.
Japan Avenue proposes real wooden Kokeshi, handcrafted and imported straight from Japan.