History of the Kokeshi Doll in Maebashi

OKAIMONO/ Kokeshi Dolls, Lifestyle

History of the Kokeshi Doll in Maebashi

Gunma prefecture, where Maebashi City is located, is home to many splendid hot-spring (onsen) villages and beautiful mountains in Japan. Kokeshi dolls have long been famous as souvenirs sold at hot-springs where people would visit to heal their bodies and there was also a lot of high-quality wood in the area. Getting Kokeshi dolls as a souvenir meant bringing a part of nature home, and is also a popular choice to pass on good wishes when gifting. It is said that Kokeshi dolls originated in the late Edo Period (beginning of the 19th century) as dolls that children would play with.  

Usually, the wooden Kokeshi dolls have an iconic round head and a cylindrical body with traditional Japanese patterns and colouring. 

Kokeshi Dolls

On the other hand, Kokeshi dolls that are popular in Gunma prefecture, including Maebashi, break free from the traditional looks and are often referred to as “modern Kokeshi dolls”.

Modern Kokeshi dolls are not bound by the traditional shape and strongly reflect the artisans’ high level of creativity and originality. Each of them is handmade by artisans with skills that have been passed down through generations and garnered through repeated practices. As seen in the video above, no pieces of wood are identical. The artisan has to visualise how to turn each wood into a beautiful art piece waiting to be brought home. 


History of the Kokeshi Doll in Maebashi 2History of the Kokeshi Doll in Maebashi 3

Being the prefectural capital, modern Kokeshi dolls are said to have started in Maebashi and there is an annual competition held in the city since 1960, inspiring innovative Kokeshi dolls even till today. 


【Gunma Kokeshi Cooperative Maebashi Branch】

It is said that a Maebashi craftsman laid the foundation for modern kokeshi dolls in 1910. After that, the manufacture and sale of kokeshi dolls become very popular in Maebashi and Gunma prefecture, thus allowing many vendors to start a business.

In 1957, the Gunma Kokeshi Cooperative was established by the unification of these companies. Currently, the Cooperative has been hosting the “All Gunma Modern Kokeshi Contest” since 1960, contributing to the promotion and development of the Kokeshi industry.

Get your own Kokeshi Doll today! 
History of the Kokeshi Doll in Maebashi 4

Share this Post