When one thinks of dolls, often the image that pops into their heads would be the soft doll that they might have played with as a child or knew of the doll because of friends who had played with such toys. It is the usual doll with big eyes, long curly lashes and a big smile. It would have prominent features and of course, made with a torso, limbs and best made to look like an actual little girl. This is what a lot of people’s concept of doll is, however in Japan there is a variety of ways a doll could look like. An interesting take on what a unique doll could be is epitomized by a Japanese doll called the Kokeshi doll.
Kokeshi dolls are Japanese dolls that originate from the Northern part of the country. They are dolls made from wood and completely handmade. They are not projected to have limbs but just mainly torsos that resemble more of a tree’s trunk rather than an actual human torso. The head is enlarged in a rather odd way, as the proportions of it compared to the proportions of a normal human body are a bit off. The face is painted on with not prominent features, but with thin, delicate ones. The doll’s hair is also painted on and may be designed depending on the artists crafting the doll. Its body, instead of being clothed, is instead decorated with a floral design or pattern, again depending on the artist. The floral design may be done in black, red or maybe even yellow. Once the artist is happy with his or her craft and deems the doll done, he or she will sign his or her name at the bottom, marking their work.
The origin of the Kokeshi doll has quite an eerie sense as people aren’t entirely sure how it came about, although most of them agree that the most likely translation of the name sounds something like “small dolls”. The wood that was used for making these exquisite dolls was usually just from either dark cherry trees or the mizuki trees. The head and the body aren’t usually made as one piece, as they are separately made and then only later on attached together.
Often people who bought the dolls were Japanese who would visit the hot spring resorts. They were sold as souvenirs however some historians often hint at the idea that they may have had a spiritual significance at a point.
Photos from kyototraditions and kokeshi-doller