Japan Atlas: Traditional Crafts 
Naruko Kokeshi

Location: Sendai City, Naruko Town, and some other districts in Miyagi Pref.

 Number of companies: 100

 Number of workers: 135

 Events: National Kokeshi Festival in October.



Wooden Dolls with the Warmth of Simplicity 

In the world of Japanese dolls and traditional folk crafts, "Kokeshi," simple dolls representing women or girls, are particularly notable. "Kokeshi" are found everywhere in the Tohoku region, but there is no historical evidence of them having been made outside of the Tohoku region. Well-known hot spa areas often have their own "Kokeshi." Various hypotheses about their origin have been formulated, including that Kokeshi might have derived from toys, but historical knowledge is limited to a best presumption that they first appeared in the latter half of the Edo period (1603-1868). It is believed that artisans specializing in wood work, who made household utensils such as trays and wooden bowls, began making "Kokeshi" in the severe winter to sell as souvenirs to visitors who came to take the cure at the hot springs. Since then, "Kokeshi" have become popular for their gentle features embodying an ideal of femininity. 

In the six prefectures of the Tohoku region there are a total of 10 types of "Kokeshi." The most dominant type is the Naruko variety originally made in Miyagi Prefecture, which can also be found in Akita, Iwate, and Yamagata prefectures. These days not only dolls with a traditional style but also creative Kokeshi that incorporate contemporary taste are being made. Some people have suggested that in "matryoshka," the nesting Russian dolls that originated in the nineteenth century, some influence of "Kokeshi" can be seen. 

Photo: Traditional Kokeshi Dolls from Naruko (Miyagi Prefecture).

Unauthorized reproduction of the photos in this page is prohibited.

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