Where to Buy Kokeshi Dolls in the UK

Posted by in Japanese Gifts, Japanese Kokeshi Dolls

kokeshi doll ukBelieved to have originated during the Edo period (1600 – 1868), hand carved wooden kokeshi dolls were traditionally sold to people visiting onsen (hot springs) in Northern Japan. They later took on a more symbolic meaning, becoming tokens of love and friendship. This guide outlines the typical traits of contemporary and traditional kokeshi dolls and gives guidance on where to buy kokeshi dolls in the UK.

What Do Traditional Kokeshi Dolls Look Like?

The kokeshi doll is fairly simple in structure but more detailed in terms of decoration. They typically consist of trunk with no arms or legs and a relatively large head, with delicate features painted on using a fine brush. The body usually has an ornate floral design but not always; other kokeshi dolls feature delicate cranes, sweeping kanji (calligraphy) and tranquil landscapes. The bottom is usually marked with the artist’s signature.

Traditional Kokeshi dolls can be divided into 11 types, often depending on the hot springs from which they originated. Of these, the most widespread is the Naruko kind from the Miyagi Prefecture. Other examples include Tsuchiyu, Yajir? and T?gatta dolls, each with its own subtle individual features. For instance, Naruko dolls have a fringe and a broad body that is painted with chrysanthemums, while Tsuchiyu dolls tend to be decorated with a ‘snake eye’ on the top of their heads, and their bodies with stripes.

What Do Contemporary Kokeshi Dolls Look Like?

Most contemporary kokeshi dolls are similar to traditional ones in terms of their basic attributes – wooden, round-headed and limbless, with fine, painted features – but have a more modern look about them. Many are made to portray a particular sentiment (e.g. wishes of joy, good luck or a happy christening) and others carry individual features (e.g. football shirt) that make them personal to their owner (e.g. a football fanatic). You can also get ones painted with Zodiac signs; seasonal ones, literary ones – in fact, there’s a kokeshi doll to represent virtually every theme you could possibly think of.where to buy kokeshi dolls in the uk

Where to Buy Kokeshi Dolls in the UK

Traditional kokeshi dolls can be difficult to come by in the UK, but eBay is a great place to find second hand ones at pretty reasonable prices, many of which are hand carved and signed by the artist. If you would prefer a more contemporary one, The Japanese Shop has a fabulous selection of adorable dolls ranging from ninjas and little red riding hoods to married couples and mothers with babies.