What are kokeshi?
As there are few paper records, their precise origins are somewhat lost in the annals of time but it is thought that kokeshi first appeared in the Tōhoku region around the 1800s and were made by wood turners (who usually made plates and bowls) as toys for their children. The earliest examples are thought to have come from the Togatta Onsen area in Miyagi Prefecture. Kokeshi started out as simple wooden forms and gradually came to be painted with expressions and colourful kimono – the kind of kokeshi people know and love today.
Kokeshi dolls have no formal connection with Shinto or organized religion but, as the spirituality of the region has always been intrinsically connected with the forests, nature worship and animism, these wooden dolls were undoubtedly an important anchor of life in the mountain villages.