【Introduction to Traditional Crafts】~Miyagi Traditional Kokeshi (Miyagi Prefecture)~

【Introduction to Traditional Crafts】~Miyagi Traditional Kokeshi (Miyagi Prefecture)~


Miyagi Traditional Kokeshi



【Production area of Miyagi Traditional Kokeshi】

Sendai City, Shiroishi City, Zao Town, Osaki City, etc. in Miyagi Prefecture



【What is Miyagi Traditional Kokeshi?】

Kokeshi dolls made in the areas around Sendai City and Shiroishi City in Miyagi Prefecture.

Kokeshi born in the Tohoku region can be divided into 11 lines in total.

Among them, the following five lines have been designated as traditional crafts. (June 1981)


・Naruko type

A torso that tapers toward the center

referring source:Miyagi Zao Kokeshi Museum


・Togatta type

Large head & straight thin torso

referring source:Miyagi Zao Kokeshi Museum


・Yajiro type

Beret-like pattern, colorful

referring source:Miyagi Zao Kokeshi Museum


・ Sakunami type

Ring-shaped decoration on the head

referring source:Miyagi Zao Kokeshi Museum


・Hijiori type

Rich facial expressions not found in other types, such as crescent-shaped eyes and firm lips

referring source:Miyagi Zao Kokeshi Museum


All kokeshi dolls are the same, but the shapes and patterns differ depending on the production area.

This is because the traditional techniques and patterns used in manufacturing have been handed down within limited relationships, such as “from a master to his clan” or “from a master to his apprentice”.

In addition, in order to keep the tradition of each lineage alive, the craftsmen also set various restrictions.



【Features of Miyagi Traditional Kokeshi】

It is characterized by its simple and cute appearance, which consists of only two parts, the “head” and the “body”.

It is also known that one craftsman carries out the entire process from cutting the trees that are the raw materials to completion.

From this background, it is possible to express the individuality of each craftsman while respecting tradition.



【History of Miyagi Traditional Kokeshi】

In the long history, the oldest kokeshi doll is the “Million Pagoda”.

“Million Pagodas” are a million small pagodas built at the request of Emperor Shotoku in order to calm the turmoil after the “Fujiwara no Nakamaro Rebellion” in 764.

In each small pagoda, Daranikyo (prayer to the Buddha) is placed.


After that, Imperial Prince Koretaka (844-897) began to teach the potter’s wheel turning technique in Omi Province.

His apprentice craftsmen who inherited his skills migrated all over Japan, which triggered the spread of kokeshi dolls to the world.


It was during the Azuchi-Momoyama period that woodworkers began to live in the Tohoku region.

It is said that the kokeshi dolls produced there were the beginning of the current Miyagi traditional kokeshi dolls.


Of the five lines introduced earlier, the Togatta kokeshi is believed to be the oldest.

At that time, woodworkers living in the Tohoku region were making wooden products for daily use (tableware, trays, etc.) as souvenirs to sell to people who visited hot springs.

Also, it seems that he made toys for his family such as children and grandchildren and gave them as gifts.


Kokeshi dolls, which used to be a kind of toy, began to be made for sale, and in the middle of the Meiji period, they became familiar to adults as ornamental objects.

This is how Miyagi traditional kokeshi dolls spread.



【Production process of Miyagi Traditional Kokeshi】

Wood material

dogwood, maple


①Wood trimming/rough pulling

Once a tree is felled, the bark is stripped immediately.

Then, after drying naturally for 6 months to 1 year, it can be used as a material for kokeshi dolls.

The procedure after drying is as follows.


・Tamagiri → Cut the raw wood according to the dimensions of the kokeshi doll

・Cutting → Cut off excess parts

・Arabiki → Turn the potter’s wheel to roughly shape the head and torso


As mentioned earlier, each of the five types of kokeshi dolls has its own limitations, and the manufacturing process is slightly different.

The final step, roughing, uses a different potter’s wheel depending on the system.


・Vertical potter’s wheel → Togatta type, Yajiro type, Sakunami type

・Horizontal potter’s wheel → Naruko type


②Finishing the head and torso

After roughing, the wood is planed and then the head and torso are finished.

The craftsmen never sketch or draw lines on the wood before carving.

The craftsmen turn the potter’s wheel while checking the curvaceousness and thickness of the head and torso by the touch of their fingertips and by visual inspection.

This work requires highly skilled craftsmen.

Once the shape is complete, the body is polished using horsetail or sandpaper, and the upper and lower parts of the body are patterned with a potter’s wheel.

There are various head shapes such as melon type, but the type determined for each type is as follows.


・Togatta type → Shibari type

・Yajiro type → Shibari type

・ Sakunami type → Fukusuke type, round type


In addition, the shape of the body of each type is as follows.


・Naruko type → inner half body (the center part of the body is narrow)

・Togatta type → straight body (characterized by sloping shoulders)

・Hijiori type → In addition to the straight body, a unique shape such as a straight body with a wide hem is also OK


③Fit the head into the body

The fitting method is also different for each type.


・Naruko type

Use the potter’s wheel to turn the torso and fit the head using the power of friction.

It fits instantly with the power of friction, so the smoke rises.

The phenomenon that makes a squealing sound when it is inserted is called “gatako”, a technique and method unique to the Naruko type.



The head and torso are combined by “insertion” and “fitting”.



This is the process of painting a kokeshi doll.

The colors that are actually used are limited and are as follows.


・face, hair → black

・Rokuro pattern, kimono pattern → Mainly red, blue, and green


In addition, the pattern of the head and torso is determined in detail for each type.

For example, the kimono pattern is as follows.


・Naruko type → Flowers such as “chrysanthemum”, “peony”, “iris”, “nadeshiko”, or patterns on a potter’s wheel

・Togatta type → Flowers such as “chrysanthemum”, “plum”, “peony”, “cherry blossom”, “collar”, “wood grain”, “potter’s wheel pattern”, etc.

・Yajiro type → potter’s wheel pattern, “chrysanthemum”, “butterfly”, “knot string”, etc.


Even if they are of the same type, each craftsman will have their own individuality and uniqueness in the painting, so you can enjoy the differences.


⑤Wax coating

It is decided that wax is applied to the kokeshi dolls that have been painted to give them a “wax polish finish”.

Wax coating makes the wood grain look more beautiful, so it is indispensable for making kokeshi dolls.

The wax used is “Japan wax”, “White wax”, etc.





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Bodhidharma Kokeshi

Kokeshi Cap

Kokeshi LED Flashlight(Color Black)

Kokeshi LED Flashlight(Color Stripe)

Traditional Kokeshi Enju

Traditional kokeshi Mizuki

Birth Kokeshi

Naruko Traditional Kokeshi(Meoto)

Koinobori Top

Naruko Traditional Kokeshi(Masamune)

Naruko Traditional Kokeshi(Shunyo)

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