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The classics are the most familiar of all kokeshi. They have round heads and rounded body, (a few have elongated bodies) and always wear a colorful kimono with a haori (jacket) or vest. The head is attached via a wooden peg which allows it to nod or turn. They were finished with a coat of glossy varnish.  Being 50+ years old, signs of aging such as paint loss, crazing of the paint or varnish, whitening of varnish, scratches and dents are common to these dolls. Unfortunately, the more paint colors used, the thicker the paint and the thicker the paint, the greater chance for the paint to dry out and chip.  That is why when a doll has chipping, it always seems to be in the most artistically designed areas.  Condition issues exceeding normal wear and tear will be so noted.


Daruma (Bodhidharma) was a Sage from India who lived in the 5th or 6th century, A.D.  He is the founder of Zen Buddhism.  There are many stories and legends about him.  One of the most famous is the reason he is seen without legs or arms.  He is said to have prayed or meditated for so many years that they fell off from non-use.  It is said that he cut off his eyelids as he was so angry at himself for dozing off during mediation, ergo his large eyes.  Paper mache daruma dolls often have no eyes drawn in.  When you make a wish, you color in one eye and when it comes true, you color in the other.  Often seen in sets of 8 which represent 7 times down and 8 times up.  He is also bottom weighted so if knocked over, he rises back up.  Placed inside the home, he symbolizes good luck and protection. 

A female version of Daruma is called "Hime" or Princess Daruma. 

The above is an extremely abreviated explanation but should give a little insight about the dolls listed in this catalog.        


There are two types of kokeshi, the traditional kokeshi and the sosaku (creative) kokeshi. The traditional kokeshi consists of 11 families and include a few offshoots of some of these main families. The creative kokeshi is everything else. For the purposes of this site, the creative kokeshi has been broken down into additional categories, including "classic" and "modern".


The modern kokeshi (kindai kokeshi), although considered a sosaku (creative) kokeshi, are quite different in look and feel than the vintage kokeshi. They are not fashioned after historic or folklore figures; they do not conform to any particular shape or style. Many are female dolls, with large heads and "big" hair or "helmet hair" as I've seen them referred. Often, the hair is a separate piece of wood that may be painted or left natural. This style started in the 1970's or a little earlier.

Most of the non-traditional dolls made today fall into this category and have been referred to as "Gumma" dolls as the majority are made in Gumma. However, there are many different levels of qualtity within this group. The top artists today, who's individual works are masterpieces, also create less expensive dolls so that everyone can enjoy them.


Paper mache originates in China.  Samples of items have been found dating back to 202BC to 220AD.  The Japanese history of paper mache toy crafting goes back to the 17th century (early Edo period).  Originally used as ritual type objects to protect the children from evil spirits, today, still used as good luck charms.  Many of the techniques used today are unchanged from centuries ago as with many of the Japanese folk crafts.  A specific example of a well known Japanese paper mache toy is the Inuhariko (paper mache dog).  The Inuhariko dates to the late Edo period (1603-1868).  They were created as toys for children but also placed next to women giving birth as a good luck charm and to ensure a safe delivery.  Today they are made much the same way and look the same as they did 100+ years ago.  Animals have always been a popular subject of the paper mache toys (cows, tigers, dogs and cats) and, more recently, the 12 animals of the zodiac.  

7 GODS OF FORTUNE  (a.k.a. Shichifukujin, 7 gods of good fortune, 7 lucky gods)

A group of 7 dieties from Japanese folklore.  There are specific characteristics associated with each one.  

1.  Ebisu - god of fishermen, depicted carrying a fishing pole and/or a fish                      

2.  Daikokuten - god of wealth or prosperity, carries a magic mallet or treasure sack

3.  Benzaiten - goddess of the arts (the only female), carries a lute

4.  Hotei - god of happiness and contentment, depicted with an exposed stomach for it is said if you rub his belly, it will bring good luck.  He carries a bag of food and treasure

5.  Fukurokuju - god of wisdom and longevity, carries a scroll which contains all the wisdom in the world

6.  Jurojin - god of longevity, carries a staff or scroll which contains the secret to longevity

7.  Bishamonten - god of war/warriors, carries a spear

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