Le Kokeshi (こ け し) are a type of traditional Japanese wooden dolls, originating from the Tohuku region which is located in northeastern Japan.
It is not known exactly when the first one was made kokeshi, but their production dates back to the end of the Edo period (1603-1867).
They were some wood artists, called Kijishi, which normally produced bowls, trays and other tableware, to start making the dolls Kokeshi, which were initially sold as toys for children and later as souvenirs to visitors who went to bathe in the Onsen, the hot springs near their villages.
Behind these elaborate dolls hides an art that has been handed down for centuries and that still today furnishes the rooms of Japanese and collectors from all over the world.
In addition to being beautiful ornaments for homes, they are dolls considered a good omen against bad luck and considered a refined object to give to very special people.
Dolls kokeshi they are divided into two types: traditional (DENTŌ KOKESHI) e creative (SOSAKU KOKESHI ).
Le kokeshi traditional, were the first to be produced, made in the six prefectures of Tohoku: Aomori, Akita, Iwate, Yamagata, Miyagi and Fukushima, and are characterized by a very simple design, with a round head and a cylindrical body without limbs. The motifs of their kimonos, floral and linear, have been handed down for generations in the families of their creators.
Le kokeshi creative, born as an art form after the Second World War and therefore more modern, are mostly produced in the prefecture of Gunma. Unlike traditional Kokeshi, they do not show the design of the place of origin or the techniques that have followed one another over the generations. They exclusively represent the style of each craftsman. They generally keep the smooth body of traditional kokeshi, but more shaped; they have additional features, such as hair and kimonos that are more defined and more contemporary in taste.
There are various types of wood used for making Kokeshi: cherry wood (sakura), maple (taya kaede), the elm (herbs) and the most used is the dogwood (mizuki).
The wood chosen usually depends on the vision of the doll by Kijishi and experience with the material. Each type of wood offers a different color, texture and grain pattern that will affect the outcome of each doll.
Despite the many different styles of dolls Kokeshi and the different styles of realization there is a philosophy shared by all: that is, that every Kokeshi represents the search for beauty and art through simplicity.
Enclosed in artfully crafted wood, there is expertise, dedication and history.