A Japanese limbless wooden doll. Historically believed to have been 1st produced during the late edo period (1804-1811) and in (1830-1843) fully commercialized as a toy for children. They were also made as souvenirs, mementos, for travelers visiting onsen in the Tōhoku region of Japan.
Sôsaku (modern, creative):
Kokeshi found in this category are free form works. The artist has full autonomy to create their pieces in any style they chose. Using a plethora of techniques such as pyrography, hand carving, lathe turning and any colors they chose to select for their work. Kokeshi in this category vary immensely as they are open to the ideas, interpretations and perceptions of the artist. Some may even be fashioned after popular folktales, Yôkai, Noah plays and just about anything that the artist is inspired by.
Shingata (transitional, new style):
Kokeshi found in this category may incorporate features of dentô Kokeshi such as shape, hair dressing, and or facial features. However, they do not conform to any of the 12 specific lineages. Some craftsmen/women that create this specific type may also produce dentô Kokeshi, they sometimes transition into sôsaku Kokeshi. Some prime examples would be the works of Hideo Ishihara who started as a Naruko craftsman. Kiyohara Takao is a prime example of both shingata/sôsaku style, his Kokeshi often appeared to be dentô in design, while others have more flare and were certainly free form.
In Japanese culture, having a small memento of a trip or bringing a loved one a small gift is part of the enjoyment of that specific experience. of course, Japanese Kokeshi would also be made as souvenirs. They include farmers selling oranges, or other fruit like cherries. They may also have favorite, or well known, haiku (poems) and depict historical landscapes and places such as Mt. Fuji or Tokyo Tower. These types of Kokeshi are slowly disappearing as they are no longer being produced.
Kokeshi theme is also used in products created for the home. In this category you will find things like beauty accessories, (ear cleaners, toothpicks, jewelry), kitchen appliances such as cups, egg holders, bowls, salt and pepper shakers and napkin holders just to name a few. There are also lamps made in both dentô and sôsaku styles. Similarly, there are office supplies with Kokeshi themes, such as staplers, perpetual calendars and more. Not to mention the toys like chessboards, pull cars, tic tac toe and clackers.
Ejiko (baby in a basket):
This category encompasses both sôsaku and dentô Kokeshi that are made to appear as if they are a seated child in a basket. Japanese women, until the 1960s, would commonly carry their young in straw baskets called Izumeko (rice warming basket), as they worked in their village farms. It is believed that ejiko Kokeshi are fashioned after the babies in Izumeko. Similarly, there are Japanese dolls made of gofun called Izumeko Dolls which are sometimes seated in weaved straw baskets.
Nemariko (sitting, kneeling):
This category was specifically created by Narugo crafters and is an elongated version of the ejiko style. We were recently informed that other strains (styles) do not wish to have their sitting/kneeling Kokeshi referenced as nemariko as it is not the proper term for the other strains. They would simply be called ejiko or sitting Kokeshi. Some may have their own terminology such as those made by Tôgatta kojin, Rika Komatsu, who calls hers -Welcome Kokeshi.
Donko Kokeshi (bobble /nodder heads):
This category is for creative Kokeshi that were created in the 1950’s/1960s after the war, where they were quite popular during the Kokeshi boom period. The wooden bodies were created by Tôgatta artisans and there were groups of women that painted them. They were usually sold in pairs a boy and a girl, sometimes turned into lamps, salt and pepper shakers and many other interesting forms.
Many dentô and sôsaku craftsmen have made nesting dolls similar to the Russian Matryoshka dolls. The creative types were sold in boxes as pairs boy/girl with nested children inside; sets came with 2 children or 4 children and the parents. Dentô craftsmen produce Komochi (parent with children) and Magomochi (grandparent with children) styles.
This is a term coined by KT/KV. In featuring the works of artist who made similarly fashioned craftwork out of wood, ceramics, glass or any other medium, it was important to us to clearly define the source of inspiration. These are free form works created by artist, ceramist, pyrographers, fashion designers, illustrators etc. all around the world who have been inspired by Japanese Kokeshi and culture to create their own interpretive works. By using the term Kokeshi Inspired to describe their works, the origin of inspiration is kept and not lost, further growing interest in the art form