Kokeshi: The Dolls Behind the Lamps

Kokeshi dolls have played an important role in Japanese folk crafts for many centuries. While they were first created in the Edo period by craftsmen in the hot springs of Northern Japan, since the end of WWII they have become internationally renowned as a universal symbol of Japanese culture alongside Sakura flowers.

Lladró makes various Kokeshi dolls as well, like this cute Kokeshi doll with cherry bossom flowers on her kimono.

Believed to date back to the middle of the Edo period (1603-1897), these dolls originated in the Tohoku region, which is known for its onsen (hot spring) resorts. It is believed that the workers at these resorts created the first Kokeshi dolls from the moist Mizuki wood found around the springs, and either gave them to their children to play with or sold them as souvenirs to tourists in the area. Traditionally, only red, black, and yellow were used to decorate the dolls, and the designs on their kimonos were both symbolic and localised to the specific area of the dolls’ creation.

In the 1940s, artists throughout Japan began creating more modern interpretations of Kokeshi dolls, known as Sosaku Kokeshi. These dolls often had a wider, more rounded shape, and were not limited to traditional colours or design features. The popularity of Sosaku Kokeshi continued to grow through the 1960s and 70s, and during this time they became known internationally as a prevalent symbol of Japanese culture and craftsmanship.

As well as being popular as souvenirs for tourists and toys for children, Kokeshi dolls also hold spiritual significance for the people of Japan. In one myth, the dolls are said to bring a bountiful harvest to their owners, while in another they are said to protect their owner’s home from fire. These superstitions are attributed to the moist wood from which Kokeshi are made, as well as the Shinto spirits (Kami) which many Japanese people believe inhabit all things, whether they are living beings or objects. Kokeshi dolls are also presented as offerings to the Kami at Shinto shrines.

Another early belief associated with Kokeshi in the Edo period was that the dolls were inhabited by mountain spirits who acted as the guardians of children. The dolls were considered to be symbolic of the children themselves and were given as gifts to watch over the children and keep them from harm as they grew up. When the child reached adulthood and no longer needed the protection, the doll was burned and the mountain spirit was free to return to its home in the mountains.



Lladró has reimagined the Kokeshi doll in its collection of Kokeshi cordless lamps. The lamps’ streamlined design celebrates the timeless form of the Kokeshi dolls, and is accentuated by the lines which run vertically down the piece. The lamps are also decorated in Lladró’s signature pastel colour scheme, which allows them to remain modern and sophisticated whilst retaining the cuteness that Kokeshi are known for. It comes in three different colourways, contact our team for more information.

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