My first encounter with the kokeshi wooden doll was in the late 1980’s when an aunt who traveled to Japan gave a wooden doll to my younger sibling.
We just refer them as Japanese dolls. These were made of wood and painted in red and black. It was simple and unlike the barbie or rag dolls which was popular kind of dolls in the country before.
I remembered that the wooden doll is just kept in a container. It would take more than a decade or so before we would encounter these types of wooden dolls during a doll festival hosted by the Japanese embassy. I again encountered these doll few years later at the Museo Pambata exhibit.
An in depth documentary posted in youtube channel by Mr. Travis Wall – This was aired by NHK (Japanology) few years ago.
We learned that these dolls have originated from Japan in the middle part of Edo period (1603–1868) maybe around late 1700 or possibly early 1800 and the first recorded wooden dolls were made within the Tohoku region . Some historians would say that these may also influence the development of matryoshka doll .
The first kokeshi dolls were made from discarded wood and are primary targeted the children and parents. These often bought as souvenirs after families would take a dip at the hot spring resorts within the northern regions.
After the second world war , collecting kokeshi dolls became more popular as more people could travel across the country. Even foreign tourists would bring these wooden dolls for souvenir items.
The fad for collecting these wooden dolls eventually started to peak by the 1950’s to late 1970’s. Thus almost every known prefecture in Japan would boast several designs. craftsmen and artisans would eventually have their own different interpretation, thus adding more creative styles.
The fad seem to wane down by mid- 1970’s up until early this millennium when newer kokeshi doll designs began to solicit more interest in the traditional dolls. The rise of the social media would add to the fever of collecting these kawai items, as collectors would post interesting finds in their social media accounts.
A minor drawback for these dolls was some people believes that it harbors evil spirits or spirits of babies.
I have at least 3 friends who collects kokeshi dolls. One who started collecting them few years ago while she was attending high school . Another friend started collecting just a few months ago which were bought mostly from Japanese surplus stores found in Metro Manila. While another friend started collecting just this year.
The phenomenal growth of kokeshi doll collecting in the country was due to the influx of Japanese surplus stores which carry some of these wooden dolls. Some are also brought home by OFW’s from Japan as gifts or display items in their homes.
Although this is not my cup of tea , I manage to collect about 15 items bought from Ms. Lexa Lo , She is an online seller of kokeshi dolls and other items from Japan.
It took over 1 month filling up the orders and the transaction went on smoothly. The items were shipped via local courier The Express Guy and took just 1 day before we got the items.
These kokeshi doll have find their way to collectors which collects and treasure them. Happy collecting.