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Beautiful Kokeshi Dolls: A Uniquely Japanese Folk Art

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Take a fresh look at the traditional and iconic Japanese kokeshi folk toy by exploring its origins and history.

This collection of photographs documents pieces from the extensive private collection of Itske and Anthony Stern. The photos and accompanying text were presented during a public program, Kokeshi: Not Just a Toy!, at the Japanese American National Museum on July 25, 2009 in conjunction with the Kokeshi: From Folk Art to Art Toy exhibition on display from July 11 through October 4, 2009.

Collector Itske Stern, author of articles about kokeshi for Daruma magazine and other Japanese publications, and her husband Anthony, talked about the history of traditional kokeshi and their personal journey in collecting over 1,200 of these beautiful folk toys.

To learn more about the exhibition, please visit the exhibition website: janm.org/exhibits/kokeshi

Slides in this album 

BEAUTIFUL KOKESHI DOLLS

A UNIQUELY JAPANESE FOLK ART

Kokeshi dolls
Contributed by: ylkawashima

Naruko Dolls

Naruko kokeshi are distinguished by their sharp shoulders and a head that, when turned, makes a squeaking sound. This is the only doll that does so. Some of the newer ones have rounded shoulders like the one on the left of the screen.

Naruko Dolls
Contributed by: ylkawashima

Kijiyama Dolls

Kijiyama dolls are made from one piece of wood and have a very distinctive pattern of kimono and obi.

Kijiyama Dolls
Contributed by: ylkawashima

Nakanosawa Dolls

Nakanosawa dolls are very distinctive dolls due to their atypical Japanese eyes surrounded by large, pink rims. This doll was made in tribute to a street entertainer who walked on his hands with a pillow between his knees and had make up similar to the faces of these dolls. After ...

Nakanosawa Dolls
Contributed by: ylkawashima

Zao - Bikkuri Me Dolls (Surprised Eyes)

These are from the Zao- Shiroishi onsen (hot springs) and have the characteristic surprised eyes. Very cute.

Zao - Bikkuri Me Dolls (Surprised Eyes)
Contributed by: ylkawashima

Tsuchiyu Dolls

Tsuchiyu dolls are easily identified by their long, tubular, round shouldered shape and especially by the striped pattern on their body. The heads have a “bull’s eye” circular pattern. This will be explained later. The largest doll in the photo is the only one with two camellias on it , ...

Tsuchiyu Dolls
Contributed by: ylkawashima

Nambu-Hanamaki Dolls

These dolls are characteristic of the Nambu area, lacking any design or painted color. The largest one here has two rings around the base and the doll and rings were made all from one piece of wood. The head is often loose.

Nambu-Hanamaki Dolls
Contributed by: ylkawashima

Sakunami Dolls

*Sakunami Kokeshi Dolls

Sakunami Dolls
Contributed by: ylkawashima

Tsugaru Dolls

These lovely dolls are distinguished by the Daruma pattern painted on them with stripes and camellias. I asked one of the dollmakers why the scary daruma was painted on it and he said it was to keep evil spirits away from children. These dolls also have a “bust” and waist. ...

Tsugaru Dolls
Contributed by: ylkawashima

Togatta Dolls

The dolls from Togatta are recognized by the very distinctive head design with the red petals along the sides of the heads. There are many different designs painted on the bodies ranging from diagonal red stripes, flowers kimono collars, and more.

Tohgatta Dolls
Contributed by: ylkawashima

Hijiori Dolls

These very distinctive dolls have a very heavy hairline and “sanpaku” eyes (three line eyes). Made only by a handful of dollmakers they tend to be more expensive than most kokeshi dolls because there are so few makers of this style.

Hijiori Dolls
Contributed by: ylkawashima

Oshin (Naruko) Dolls

Oshin dolls are designed after the Naruko doll with their distinctive shoulders. These pretty ladies were made after a very popular serialized telvision program featuring “Oshin,” a poor woman who overcomes hardships to make a better life. When the program was finished, its popularity among the Asian community created the ...

Oshin (Naruko) Dolls
Contributed by: ylkawashima

Yajiro Dolls

Yajiro dolls are easily recognizable by their signature waistline and colors. This doll has a dominant yellow base for its body with purple, black, blue and red designs. The various patterns range from stripes to flowers. Some of these dolls also have a topknot hairdo.

Yajiro Dolls
Contributed by: ylkawashima

Naruko Nemoriko Dolls

Naruko “sitting” dolls are called nemoriko dolls, indicated by the kimono spreading around the sitting person. Other strains of kokeshi also have the nemoriko style.

Naruko Nemoriko Dolls
Contributed by: ylkawashima

Ejiko Dolls

Don’t overlook these babies!!! These are the babies in the “baskets” (EJIKO) and this is how the field workers took their babies to work with them, by placing them in baskets near them as they worked. All the ten different types have these ejiko dolls.

Ejiko Dolls
Contributed by: ylkawashima

Daruma

These wonderful little men are also made by kokeshi makers and some are made as toys. The daruma legend came from India and it is about a man who sat on a wall and worried about the problems of the world. He lost his legs from non use and his ...

Daruma
Contributed by: ylkawashima

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ylkawashima — 更新日 11月 29 2011 4:11 p.m.


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