What are some popular dolls in Japan

Souvenir from Japan: Kokeshi dolls

They are considered lucky charms and are probably one of the most popular Japan souvenirs: Kokeshi dolls. There are many theories about the origin of the wooden figures that are now part of the national cultural heritage.

One of them is somewhat sobering: the dolls, which are turned from the wood of fruit trees, are said to have been invented in the Tohoku region in northern Japan at the beginning of the 19th century - as a souvenir for tourists who visited the hot springs in Naruko Onsen. It was only years later that collectors are said to have discovered them for themselves.

A traditionally made kokeshi is somewhat reminiscent of a knitted fleece: the body is cylindrical and without extremities, the head round to oval. Some have movable heads. They are painted sparingly but extremely finely; floral motifs are often part of the decor. Important colors are black, yellow and red. Depending on the region, the figures look different - there are a total of eleven official types. They all have one thing in common: a layer of wax protects the finished dolls.

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Kokeshi comes in many variations

The filigree handicraft has its price: if you buy an elaborate one-off item, you can also pay amounts in the three-digit euro range. There are many modern and serially produced specimens for little money. But these have often lost their cylindrical shape and look more like cartoon characters. Even Kokeshi in a can and with a music drive are available.

Those who want to learn more about the history of the dolls can visit the Kokeshi Museum in Naruko Onsen, which is just a few minutes' walk from the train station. There is also a shop where those interested can take a look around. Japan travelers can expect something similar in Sendai, the largest city in the Tohoku region: At Shimanuki in 3 Chome-1-17 Ichibancho, Kokeshi can be bought in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.