What are Japanese Kokeshi Dolls?

Traditional Japanese kokeshi dolls are handmade, carved wooden dolls. The kokeshi doll boom in Japan seems to have started around the beginning of the 19th century. However, some researches tell that the dolls were given out to visitors in the region even earlier. 

The dolls hail from the Tohoku region of Northern Japan, and feature feminine, colorful designs. Most of the time, red, yellow and black colors are used on the light wood. The dolls serve many purposes. First, to be a good token of protection for young children. They eventually became very popular amongst collectors and those interested in Japanese culture. While traditional designs are still common, artists apply more modern concepts to them as well. These include a rounder body and face, carved details in the clothes, hair, and accessories, like bows. 

Japanese kokeshi dolls can now be purchased for your own collection from anywhere in the world. Through online shops, you can find the perfect handmade kokeshi doll for yourself, or as gifts. We have chosen and displayed ten of the best online shops to find the best Japanese kokeshi dolls anywhere in the world below. 

A disclaimer: all prices, shop details, contact information, and available products are accurate at the time of publishing. These may vary according to the season, or due to world events. 

Table of Contents 

1) Top 10: Kimura Ohshido
2) Top 9: JUN Japanese Gifts and Souvenirs
3) Top 8: Japanese Kokeshi Dolls
4) Top 7: Usaburo Kokeshi
5) Top 6: The Japanese Shop
6) Top 5: Nostalgic Japan
7) Top 4: VtgJapaneseGoods on Etsy
8) Top 3: Wafuu-Honpo
9) Top 2: Kyoto Traditions – Folk Art of Japan
10) Top 1: K.K.S.

Kokeshi Online Shop #10: Kimura Ohshido

Online Shop: Kimura Ohshido Online Shop

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Kimura Ohshido is an online shop specialising in Japanese dolls and crafts. Founded in 1887 with several physical locations, this shop has a huge amount of experience in selling authentic Japanese souvenirs. 

Their website is easy to navigate, with announcements keeping users updated about the status of the shop. Their dolls are all handmade and helpfully categorised. This way, it is easy to find exactly what you may be looking for. Sub-categories of the kokeshi dolls include washi kokeshi, temari kokeshi, kabukie kokeshi and many more. The website shows prices in both Japanese yen and U.S. dollars.

Kokeshi Online Shop #9: JUN Japanese Gifts and Souvenirs

Online Shop: JUN Japanese Gifts and Souvenirs

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This online shop features many kinds of unique souvenirs and gift items related to Japanese culture for a good price! A description of their kokeshi dolls is at the top of the page, so you can be sure what to receive. There are many creative kokeshi designs to choose from. Many of the dolls have their own kimonos and ribbon sash made of cloth, rather than painted on. Some also have accessories such as flowers or bows in their hair. They can also come in a scroll paper, which may be plain or match their outfit. The dolls can also serve a function, such as a jewelry box kokeshi doll, or a pencil holder kokeshi doll. 

There are so many options to choose from, and some are useful and not just for decorative purposes. As a result, you are sure to find just what you are looking for.

Kokeshi Online Shop #8: Japanese Kokeshi Dolls

Online Shop: Japanese Kokeshi Dolls

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This online shop has its own website, but can also be found in Etsy for interested customers in the United States. The online shop features a wide array of more traditional Japanese kokeshi doll designs. By their own description, the dolls have a more antique and vintage look. These may appeal more to those who appreciate traditional Japanese culture. They sell dento kokeshi (which are the original doll design) which have a rod-shaped body and cylindrical head. These are made in the Northern region of Japan, where the kokeshi tradition began. The facial features and hair are painted in black, while the body is painted in red, orange, green or black. 

Japanese kokeshi dolls which have other various designs are not dento, and are made all over Japan. There are also some rare versions of traditional kokeshi dolls in unique shapes, such as the chestnut doll. Categories of the dolls include floral, ribbon, royalty, sleepy, and stylish kokeshi dolls. All of their dolls were made and acquired in Japan. 

Kokeshi Online Shop #7: Usaburo Kokeshi

Online Shop: Usaburo Kokeshi Online Shop

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Usaburo Okamoto founded Usaburo Kokeshi, who began making kokeshi dolls in the early 1900s. Okamoto even created new styles and methods of carving for the dolls, which have been followed through authentically. It is quite endearing to know that all kokeshi dolls from this shop have roots in the tradition. Purchasing a doll means purchasing a piece of authentic Japanese culture as well. 

Since the beginning of the creation of kokeshi dolls, the shop expanded its Japanese kokeshi doll designs enormously. Though their shop also has a physical location, their products can also be purchased online. Their creative kokeshi include cute characters from popular Disney films, Japanese anime shows like One Piece and Doraemon, and more. They also have kokeshi dolls which can be displayed at special events like weddings, birthings, or Christmas parties. 

Kokeshi Online Shop #6: The Japanese Shop

Online Shop: The Japanese Shop

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These Japanese kokeshi dolls feature cute, hand carved, and authentic designs! According to the shop, these kokeshi dolls are especially good to symbolise a bond of friendship and love.They use the traditional methods and materials to carve, specifically cherry and mizuki tree wood. This means the kokeshi dolls have a smooth dark or light wooden texture, and the details of the carved wood can be seen. They are very sturdy since they are made of wood. Their dolls are also all painted by hand, even those with more detailed designs. 

There are many beautiful options to choose from, with some dolls coming in pairs or sets. Some of the kokeshi dolls also have more modern and sleek designs, with accessories added on. Also, the kokeshi dolls mostly feature very adorable designs, with long hair and a very round face. Many are polished with wax to a smooth finish, giving off a soft glow when they are in direct light. There is no doubt that the Japanese Shop has a kokeshi doll that will be perfect for any occasion, theme, or season. 

The website displays prices in euros, US dollars, AUS dollars, CAN dollars, pounds, yen, Swiss francs, and Swedish krona. They also have a helpful sidebar to refine searches to specific prices between £6 and £149. These are the lowest and highest prices on their shop, specifically. The sidebar also allows for a check of which kokeshi dolls are still in stock. 

Kokeshi Online Shop #5: Nostalgic Japan

Online Shop: Nostalgic Japan Online Shop

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The Nostalgic Japan online shop offers a wide range of Japanese kokeshi dolls to choose from. Their start was on Etsy in 2015, but they eventually built their own website to showcase their boutique’s items. Their Etsy reviews are all sublime, getting near constant 5-stars for their items.  

Subcategories of their dolls include traditional, modern, large and mini, and rare kokeshi dolls. They also have kokeshi dolls purchasable in their own custom box to match the design. The kokeshi doll’s boxes are usually made of a sturdy cardboard and patterned tissue paper. The dolls are nestled in them. 

Prices are all in Japanese yen and range from around ¥2,500 to ¥3,500. The price’s currency could change due to dollars, euros, or pounds. Of course, prices vary between the designs and how many dolls included in a set. This is definitely a great online shop to find rare Japanese kokeshi dolls that have an authentic feel and look. 

Kokeshi Online Shop #4: VtgJapaneseGoods on Etsy

Online Shop: VtgJapaneseGoods

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Vintage Japanese kokeshi dolls abound on this online shop on Etsy. These kokeshi dolls make the most out of the beautifully polished plain wood. Artists paint the clothes, hair and features minimally. The motto of the store is ‘Only Genuine High-quality Good and Friendly Prices’. These kokeshi dolls are displayable in a variety of ways. For example, some of the dolls are attached to a decorated wooden board and can be hung up. 

Other dolls come in pairs or in sets of several pieces. Some come in traditional vintage Japanese outfits, which are adorned by people. Others feature authentic vintage paintings, many having nature themes. The endearing paintings are usually floral and can show birds or landscapes. Many of the Japanese kokeshi dolls also come with accessory pieces attached, such as a fan or hat. The website displays all prices in USD and range from around $12.00 to $20.00 for a single kokeshi doll. 

Kokeshi Online Shop #3: Wafuu-Honpo

Online Shop: Waafu-Honpo

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Wafuu-Honpo is an online shop based in Germany which directly sources all of their products from makers in Japan. The name of the shop translates to ‘a center of Japanese style’. Also, they are owned and operated by Dakoda Intertrade GmbH, which is a Japanese trading company. Because of this and their experts located in Japan, their products are sure to be authentic and high-quality. 

Their kokeshi doll selection is part of the Japanese figurine category. All of their products have a detailed description. Furthermore, they also provide a description of the historical and cultural significance kokeshi dolls have. This can be

Kokeshi Online Shop #2: Kyoto Traditions – Folk Art of Japan

Online Shop: Kyoto Traditions

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The Kyoto Traditions online shop was founded by a third generation Japanese American, who currently resides in the West Coast of the U.S. His online shop is an extension of his antique store based in Chicago, Illinois. Furthermore, the aim of his online shop is for showcasing the Japanese treasures he has collected. Not only that, the shop has a focus on introducing new traditional kokeshi dolls of Kijidokoro Sato. New kokeshi dolls are hard to come by outside of Japan, so this online shop is the perfect place to find them.

Categories of the Japanese kokeshi dolls offered include creative, modern, traditional, and special. Previously owned kokeshi dolls are also for sale, though there is a long description of what small flaws may be found in them. There is also a detailed description of how to properly care for the kokeshi dolls. Tips include displaying them away from direct sunlight, avoiding contact with water, and keeping them in a humidified area. During a hot and dry summer, humidified air will help to keep the wood from drying out and cracking.

The name, maker, size and condition of the kokeshi dolls are all detailed for each posting. Prices are also listed in USD, since the online shop is based in the United States of America. 

Kokeshi Online Shop #1: K.K.S.

Online Shop: K.K.S.

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The K.K.S. online shop is special, as they not only describe the history and cultural importance of kokeshi dolls. They also provide a comprehensive description of the daily life of a kokeshi shokunin. ‘Shokunin’ translates loosely to ‘artisan’ or ‘craftsmen’. There is also a video of the kokeshi doll-making process, and the four main steps. These are: cutting off an adequate-size piece of wood, carving, painting, and finally waxing. 

While it may sound simple, the art of making kokeshi dolls takes years of dedication and experience before becoming perfect at it. This can be seen by the patience that shokunin practice; sometimes spending whole days just carving. There is also a rumor that due to the lack of successors taking up the craft, the shokunin work harder than ever. As a result, their products are also rarer and more valuable. The website’s ‘About us’ page proudly displays the pictures of the kokeshi shokunin, who work with K.K.S.online shop.

You can find traditional and authentic Japanese naruko kokeshi dolls here and purchase here. The layout of the website is simple and easy to navigate. Interestingly, each doll’s design lists the the creator, location of birth, and the material used. Prices vary according to the size and material of the kokeshi doll chosen. Sizes can range from 9 centimeters to 45 centimeters. 

Conclusion

Japanese kokeshi dolls are a truly beautiful and versatile craft item, deeply rooted in the culture of Japan’s northern region. Although their purpose and designs may have changed through the years, as all things do, their significance remains. While dento kokeshi are a great example of traditional Japanese folk art, creative kokeshi also allow those who admire modern Japan to partake. It is important to remember the many hours of hard work and creativity that go into making a single kokeshi doll.

The ten online shops above are among the best to find the perfect Japanese kokeshi doll for any purpose. However, they are also just a portion of the many shops who sell high-quality kokeshi dolls.