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.
The Japanese term for what collectors refer to as traditional Kokeshi. Traditional Kokeshi consist of 11 officially categorized (1 unofficial) types of Kokeshi and several subtypes. The eleven types or strains are Hijiori, Kijiyama, Nanbu-kei, Narugo-kei, Sakunami-kei, Tōgatta-kei, Tsuchiyu-kei, Tsugaru, Yajirō-kei, Yamagata-kei and Zaō-takayu. Nakanosawa Kokeshi are a sub-strain of Tsuchiyu but somethings listed as an unofficial 12th type.
Kina-Kina is used typically to describe children's wooden toys like rattles and pacifiers (a mimic word for the sound they make). It was later used to describe Nanbu Kokeshi that have a loose fitting head. The head can be shaken back and forth easily and sounds like a rattle.
Museum Quality (modern, creative): (Top)
Similarly to Kokeshi defined under Sōsaku, Kokeshi in this category are free form works; the difference being that the works are typically (1) exhibited in competitions (2) Created from start to finish by the artisan or (3) may have similar pieces held at Musuems around the world.
Sōsaku (modern, creative): (Top)
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, Yōkai, Noah plays and just about anything that the artist is inspired by.
Shingata (transitional, new style): (Top)
Kokeshi found in this category may incorporate features of dentō 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 dentō Kokeshi, they sometimes transition into sōsaku 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/sōsaku style, his Kokeshi often appeared to be dentō in design, while others have more flare and were certainly free form.
Similar to shingata, imayo (今様) can be used to reference "new style", "Modern", Kokeshi of today. (Ima今 means ‘now’ and Yo様 means ‘style’). The term has been coined by Emi Yonezawa from Gallery Shin a passionate collector and seller of Kokeshi based out of Japan.
Omiyage (souvenirs): (Top)
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.
The term is used to describe the Kokeshi Mailers also classified as Omiyage (souvenir) items. The yubin Kokeshi usually has a hollowed out body with a screw cap or plug on the bottom that helps to contain a blank paper insert. Once purchased the paper insert is then used to write a quick note to a friend. They can then be mailed by post with a special tag designed to wrap around the head piece of the Kokeshi yubin for ease of use.
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.
A note about Kokeshi inspired works...Any artists that have won or participated in Kokeshi contests will be listed under sōsaku as these works have been recognized by Japanese Kokeshi venues and as such are accepted as sōsaku works of art.
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 dentō and sōsaku 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.
Donko Kokeshi (bobble /nodder heads): (Top)
This category is for creative Kokeshi that were created in the 1950s/1960s after the war, where they were quite popular during the Kokeshi boom period. The wooden bodies were created by Tōgatta 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 dentō and sōsaku 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. Dentō craftsmen produce Komochi (parent with children) and Magomochi (grandparent with children) styles.
Mandala or Mandara in Japanese: (Top)
The mandala, also known as mandara in Japanese, serves as a diagrammatic tool employed by Buddhists to navigate their meditation and prayers. The term "mandala" itself signifies a circular form. A Mandara Kokeshi is a type of Kokeshi doll that features a circular arrangement of miniature dolls adorning its body.
Ejiko (baby in a basket): (Top)
This category encompasses both sōsaku and dentō 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.
The seated baby in a basket Kokeshi that have been hollowed inside. They sometimes come filled with tops (koma), or small ireko (children) Kokeshi. They may not contain anything inside and are just ready to be filled by you.
Nemariko (sitting, kneeling): (Top)
This category was specifically created by Narugo crafters and is an elongated version of the ejiko style. We were recently informed that some of the other strains (styles) do not wish to have their sitting/kneeling Kokeshi referenced as nemariko as it is not the proper term for other strains. They would simply be called ejiko or sitting Kokeshi. Some may have their own terminology such as those made by Tōgatta kojin, Rika Komatsu, who calls hers "Welcome Kokeshi".
Foreshortened torsos usually with a large head
This term refers to the lathe chatter work which is purposely done on the wood to create a unique design on the body and hat if the Kokeshi has one. You can also sometimes find it on the base and mid-section of the Kokeshi, it really just depends on where the craftsman fancies using the technique.
Hollowed out head with beans or pebbles inside to give a rattling effect, like a maraca (marakasu) to be shaken. Typically found in Hijiori, Tsuchiyu-kei and Yajirō-kei strains.
allows for a crying or squeaking sound to be made when the Kokeshi's head is twisted left -right. Typically Naruko Kokeshi have this joint but there are other types to.
Bead-like hair ornaments on a hair stick (簪子) used in traditional Japanese hairstyles.
A kasa (笠) is a term used for any one of several traditional Japanese hats, specifically ones with a conical shape.
A design element used on the body of a Kokeshi that simulates a wood grain pattern. Primarily seen on Tōgatta-kei Kokeshi. It is said that it takes mastery to get this technique just right.
Kokeshi that are made to appear to be sleeping. Like ejiko Kokeshi types with their eyes closed.
Horizontal stripes created on the Kokeshi with paint, while still on the lathe. Sometimes the craftsman will reverse the direction of the spinning on the lathe, the lines are then referred to Kaeshi rokuro.
The design found on the back side of Kokeshi. Tōgatta craftsmen for instance often decorate their Kokeshi's backside with an uramoyo flower design such as an iris.
Yamiyo 闇夜 is a Japanese word used to describe loose rings circling the waists or lower body of a Kokeshi doll. They are typically created while still on the lathe. A technique that requires skill and a steady hand. The rings can be found most frequently on Tōgatta-kei, and rarely on Tsuchiyu-kei, Yamagata and Yajirō-kei.
Persons, Places or Things
The term is used to describe the parent nested type of Kokeshi. Usually one or two children are found to be nested within the parent Kokeshi.
A term used for describing the babysitter type of Kokeshi, they usually have a small baby-head attached to the body. These are different from Oshin Kokeshi
which have a style of their own.
The children found inside of nesting Kokeshi.
The term is used to describe the grandparent nested type of Kokeshi. Usually three or as many as 7 children are found to be nested within the grandparent Kokeshi
The children found inside of nesting Kokeshi that are “looking upward”. For a good example of this type of Kokeshi check our gallery photos for Kakizawa Yoshinobu's
Oshin was a television drama show initially released on 04/04/83 and ending on 03/31/1984. It tells the story of Oshin, a poor little girl who had to work as a babysitter to help her family. She would one day become the owner of a big supermarket chain in Japan. It is where the “Oshin” style Kokeshi first debut created by Izu Sadao‚ 1st generation Oshin Kijishi. Due to popular demand he continued to make “Oshin Traditional Style” Kokeshi which is based on the Naruko Traditional Style. A 2nd Oshin Kokeshi depicting Oshin herself carrying the baby she cared for also emerged. The difference from other Komori Kokeshi is that Oshin is wearing a head bandana and wears a baby carrier which is often illustrated on the Kokeshi.
The term Yōkai (妖怪) is used to refer to ghosts, phantoms, demons, monsters, phantoms and goblins. A common one is Kappa, (河童, river-child) an amphibious demon sometimes illustrated as an imp. They favor cucumbers and are meant to scare children into staying away from large bodies of water.
Some Kokeshi are fashioned after Yukinko (uses the kanji 雪 (yuki; snow) + 子 (ko; child) to make 雪ん子). Yukinko means snow children, they are usually created wearing a straw cape over their heads and winter clothing like snow boots on.
Yukiguni: Snow Country (雪国)(Top)
Refers to locations in Japan where large, long-lasting snowfalls are common. It is commonly known to refer to the Sea of Japan on the side of Honsh (Japan's main island) and the area surrounded by the Japanese Alps.
Spinners or Tops usually found in ejiko obunko types of Kokeshi. They can also be purchased seperately and some are Kokeshi or Daruma-san themed.
A hanko/inkan (both terms are interchangeable) is a carved stamp, usually seen on the bottom or side of a Kokeshi in red or black ink. It can be used in any situation where a person, or a person acting on behalf of a business, would otherwise use their signature or initials. Some Kokeshi are stamped with the business name as opposed to the artists name for branding/merchandising purposes.