Kokeshi are traditional wooden dolls that and are characterized by their lack of arms or legs. They are produced in the Tohoku region of Japan and were originally toys for children. However today they are more often used as decorations in the home. Outside of Japan, kokeshi dolls are considered to be an icon of Japan, and reflect Japanese aesthetic sensibilities with their simple, elegant and minimalist designs.
Although kokeshi dolls display extraordinary craftsmanship, they also have the appeal of handmade imperfections and no two dolls are the same. Each kokeshi also embodies the qualities of wood; something that is often referred to as “warmth.” Many collectors prefer the style of vintage, rather than new, kokeshi. Wood, unlike plastic or artificial materials which degrade over time, picks up a subdued patina, and the delicately painted features fade gracefully with time.
Kokeshi from Tohoku with Love author Manami Okazaki will host a one-day exhibition of kokeshi sourced from artisans in the Tohoku region and will give a talk about these quirky collectibles. This is a rare chance to see new kokeshi, ranging from hyper-cute styles to classic, traditional styles.
About the contributors
Manami Okazaki is an Australian born freelance journalist and author based in Japan. She covers traditional and pop culture, artisans, travel and fashion for international media. Her work has appeared in the Japan Times, the Wall Street Journal and the South China Morning Post, among others. She has written 10 books on Japanese culture, such as Kimono Now, Kawaii, Japan’s Culture of Cute and Kokeshi, From Tohoku with Love.
Kokeshi from Tohoku with Love looks at the culture of kokeshi dolls. It was initially conceived as a charity book for the 2011 Tohoku tsunami victims. The book provides a rare English language resource for people interested in these folk toys. It was voted by the editor of prestigious culture magazine Fujingaho as “one of the three books to move your soul” in an ELLE magazine survey.