What are Kokeshi Dolls?

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Traditional hand-carved Japanese dolls made from cherry wood, maple wood or dogwood are known as Kokeshi. The dolls have no arms or legs and have an enlarged head. The body has a floral design in black, red or yellow. The eyes, nose and mouth are thin painted lines. The doll is finished with a glossy layer of wax.

Kokeshi were first made by potters in the Tohoku region which was famous for its mineral springs. The technique spread to other spa towns between the 17th and 19th centuries.

There are eleven types of traditional Kokeshi depending on the patterns, shapes and techniques of making. The most popular style is Naruko, originating from a town where a Kokeshi festival is held every September. Old dolls are burned here on a pyre in a moving ritual.

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