Kokeshi (こけし, which literally translates as "limbless wooden doll") is a kind of Japanese doll collected by many. The one I have has been around for quite a while, and I haven't seen another one like it.


This kokeshi was a gift from my mom's grandmother, but that simple act was the basis of a "disagreement" which lasted decades. Calling it a disagreement is, of course, overstating it, but it's something we enjoyed teasing each other about. Her interpretation is the gift was to her as a new mother, but my interpretation was it was a gift to me. My mom found a clever way to resolve the situation, by presenting it to me as a gift.

Kokeshi originate from the Tohoku region of Northern Japan, but the different regions have their own styles.

Close-up of the neck area

While modern Kokeshi are made with separate head and body (and the Naruko kokeshi squeak when the head is turned, making a sound like a crying child), mine is one piece, which is an impressive feat of wood turning. It also has a much wider head and body while being relatively short.

Writing on the bottom

Kokeshi are usually signed on the bottom, and mine is no exception. If I understand correctly, going down the right side is fuku ningyo ("clothed doll"), and down the left is the artist, Yohasaku.

Kokeshi keychains

There are many takes on modern kokeshi, including these which happen to be keychains.

My kokeshi has a prominent place on our mantle, and usually gets pointed out first when visitors come by.