See a Piece of Wood Become a Traditional Japanese Kokeshi Doll. It’s Beautiful to Watch

It seems like an ordinary children’s toy, until you witness the precise exactitude that goes into crafting each one. Only the master craftsman can handle such fine detail, the type of detail a skilled hand has one chance to get right.

Japan's Tohoku region

A map of Japan! The Tohoku region is in dark green. (Image: “Japan Tohoku Region large” by NingyouOwn work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

These are kokeshi, a traditional doll from northern Japan. In wintertime, the Tohoku region held many a snowbound woodsman indoors. They took the wood from the mizuki tree to make what may have been earlier seen as a children’s toy, an early souvenir for tourists taking a dip in hot springs, or a talisman of fertility. In modern times they’ve became hot collector’s items.

Painting Kokeshi Dolls

Intricate detail and a super steady hand go into the design. (dmp/Vimeo)

Big head, rectangle body, and no arms or legs equals the perfect doll.

Kokeshi Dolls

After finishing this kokeshi doll, our craftsman displays his prizes. (dmp/Vimeo)

There are modern style kokeshi, mass produced and sold to tourists. The modern ones got popular after Word War II saw US soldiers in Japan. They have unusual designs and proportions, but they do not attract the hardcore kokeshi collectors like these traditional ones.

Kokeshi doll display

Collectors crave kokeshi. (Image: “Kokeshi exhibit at Seattle Nihon Go Gakko 02” by Joe Mabel. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

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