Born in the late 19th century in the northern Japan, in the spa area called Tohoku, kokeshi, the carved wood dolls (in Japanese, Keshi – dolls, ko – wood) became the souvenir for the ones who had unfortunately to stay home. The idea was so successful and the tourists were using it also as a handy tool for the back massage while enjoying the warm spring waters, that over the years it earned the Japanese excellent souvenir rank.
The kokeshi are divided into the traditional and creative ones. The traditional consist of a Japanese maple wooden cylinder (working with a lather) above which there is a wooden sphere Mizuki, wood that, being wet, has a superstition function of keeping fire away from the houses. After being machined and polished, painted with the red, mustard and purple colours each face has a unique expression: they can be happy smiling or sad and enigmatic but this is exactly what makes them beautiful. What Collodi has remade Kiji-shi to for inspiration for Geppetto?
The creative kokeshi, however, are the ones to be found at any kind of mall or the big cities such as Tokyo, Japan. Of course they wouldn’t have the traditional doll charm but they are just so delicious with all their brightly coloured floral kimini, which by the way was used in the Wii Mii avatar face.
As we have said, kokeshi have the lucky object value, as well as the souvenirs, but originally it meant to be the symbol of the unwanted babies killed after the birth or the poor Tohoku girls looking for a fortune. Today it is the symbol of the evil spirit removal increasing the dose of luck so when you give it as a present it is necessary to attach a note as a good omen with the words motivating kokeshi to have a good soul.
They say that kokeshi are the matryoshka forerunners. We are looking forward to get to know (the second part of the post)it better so we would be able to tell if its actually true or not!