The Kokeshi Show at the Japanese American National Museum opens today, July 11. The exhibition features kokeshi dolls designed by over 100 internationally recognized artists.


For those interested in the history of kokeshi:

“Kokeshi originated in the north of Japan in a region called Tohoku, and often were the toys of the children of farmers or souvenirs for visitors to nearby hot springs. Handmade out of wood, they traditionally were characterized by a slim trunk for a body and a larger round head. It is believed Japanese woodworkers made kokeshi as a source of extra income. Faces were often a few simple lines of paint while the bodies were decorated with colorful floral patterns. Like¬†daruma, kokeshi dolls had no arms and legs. As a Japanese folk toy, kokeshi are believed by some to be charms that can help ward off dangers, especially fire. The wood of the mizuki tree is often used for kokeshi and mizuki literally translates as “water tree.”

In the post-World War II era, a new style of kokeshi emerged alongside the traditional: thesosaku (creative). Kokeshi with different shaped heads and bodies, an assortment of colors and even the introduction of hair were designed as part of the sosaku movement. In the sosaku tradition, the only limits were governed by the imagination of each kokeshi designer.”

The show runs through October 4.

Image of Amy Sol’s kokeshi via Arrested Motion.