Kokeshi are handmade, wooden dolls that first originated from the northern region of Japan. There are many different types of kokeshi but the most popular variety are called Naruko. Originating from Miyazaki, these kokeshi dolls are made from various types of wood such as Japanese pagoda tree, cherry blossom, and dogwood.
Among the assortment of Naruko dolls to choose from, the Masamune is a popular one. Traditionally, this particular type of doll has been used for decorative purposes during the Boys’ Day Festival in hopes that the children will grow up to be strong and wise. Japanese pagoda tree wood is used to make this doll as it has long been considered useful in warding off evil spirits.
The Masamune kokeshi gets its namesake from Date Masamune, one of the most powerful daimyo (feudal lords) of the Sengoku period. His trademark crescent- moon helmet (a prominent feature on the Masamune doll) and missing right eye earned him a reputation as a fearsome leader. He is most notable for his conquest of the Tohoku region as well as for founding the modern day city of Sendai.
Pictured above is the iconic statue of Date Masamune on horseback, looking over the grounds on which Aoba Castle (青葉城, Aobajō), the castle that he built, used to stand. Although now, only remnants of the castle walls and tower exist, those who are interested can learn all about history of the famous site at the Aoba Castle Museum.
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