Kokeshi, from Tohoku with Love by Manami Okazaki
Kokeshi are traditional dolls that are made of wood and are characterized by their lack of arms or legs. They are produced in the Tohoku region of Japan and were originally a children’s toy, although they are more often used as a form of decoration nowadays and displayed in the home. Abroad, kokeshi dolls are considered to be an icon of Japan, and reflect Japanese aesthetic sensibilities with their simple, elegant and minimalist designs.
Kokeshi have the appeal of imperfection and exclusivity as no two dolls are the same, and for lovers of kokeshi, the artisanal nature of this hand-made item represents the romance of a bygone past where things were made one-by-one with time and care. They are often described as “healing” as the modest faces are rather ambiguous — their expressions are often described as “demure” and don’t demand attention, but are said to have a calming quality that resonates with the soul. Moreover, each kokeshi embodies the qualities of wood, something that is often referred to as “warmth.” In fact, for collectors, more than the freshly made kokeshi, many covet the atmosphere of the vintage kokeshi– rather than degrading, as with plastic or artificial materials, the wood picks up a dewy, subdued color and the delicately painted features fade gracefully with time.