Kokeshi is one of the traditional stuff you can buy as a souvenir when you are traveling in Japan. But, how about trying out the kokeshi painting experience? You can draw the white tree freely and bring it as a memorable souvenir!
We specifically design this page so you, as an agent, could have all the necessary point of views to make your Group Tour and FIT experience arrangement memorable. Make sure you check this page again later, we will update it regularly!
What you will find on this page:
What is Kokeshi
Kokeshi are a traditional handicraft of the Tohoku region. It has a long history as well, originating from the later Edo period from around 1750 to 1850, when wood craftsmen who made bowls and trays started making these Japanese wooden dolls for their children. The kokeshi dolls of that era were made to be small enough to fit into a child’s hand, and the round head on a long cylindrical body was supposed to act as a pacifier for teething babies, or so, as the legends go. Depending on the area, the face and shape of the body changes as well, and there are eleven different variations in total.
In 1981, Miyagi kokeshi received the designation of a national traditional craft. Miyagi Prefecture is home to about 100 of Japan’s 180 kokeshi artisans. For kokeshi artisan families, particular designs and styles are maintained through the generations and so kokeshi embody the achievement and life history of families, and are an expression of regional pride. To own a kokeshi doll is to take part in this ongoing dialogue across time and history.
Kokeshi dolls are divided into 11 systems, and they are given names depending on the location of where they are made. In Miyagi prefecture, there are “naruko kokeshi”, “toogatsuta kokeshi”, “yajiro kokeshi”, “sakunami kokeshi”, and “hijiori kokeshi”. Miyagi is known as the kingdom of Kokeshi. If you hit the face of a naruko kokeshi, a sound comes out, which is interesting and entertains children and adults alike. What makes traditional kokeshi dolls so attractive is that they are so simplified, yet have a hint of beauty to them. Their uniqueness and history have survived many eras, and they should continue to spread throughout the world going forwards.
There are many fans of Kokeshi, with some who collect hundreds, even thousands of these dolls; each doll is different and special because they are all handmade. Even if the designs are the same, because they are drawn by hand, each one is slightly different, which is enjoyable for the fans. Hopefully, you can meet your one of a kind Kokeshi doll someday.
Kokeshi Making Process
In order to make the whiteness and dryness of the wood suitable for making kokeshi dolls, the fresh trees that have been cut and drained are naturally dried for 8 months to 1 and a half years. This process begins around November, when the air is dry, by manually peeling the bark.
2. Grinding Wood
The lumber is fixed to the shaft tip of the potter’s wheel, rotated, and scraped into a kokeshi shape using a special tool. All the tools such as planes for scraping wood and carving patterns and thin blades for gently finishing rough parts are handmade.
Kokeshi dolls are brought to life by the precise brushstrokes. The face that resembles a child’s face, the water puller on the head, which is a symbol of each celebration, and the chrysanthemum pattern on the body are the characteristics of traditional Naruko kokeshi dolls. By drawing each one by hand, it has a unique appearance.
Kokeshi Painting Workshop
- First, you start by choosing the wooden base.
- After choosing the base, it’s time to start drawing... or so we would like, but patience is key. As drawing lines on the curved surface of the kokeshi requires some skill, we start by practicing on paper.
- Once you’ve finished practicing, it’s time to do the real thing. The traditional paint colors for Naruko Kokeshi are red, black, and green. It’s heart-pounding, drawing on the wood, with such a different feeling from the paper. Try not to pick up too much paint with the brush. If there’s too much paint on the brush, it may bleed along the wood grain. Be brave and have fun while drawing.
Once you’ve completed drawing the kokeshi, you can pass it to the staff. Once they’ve put a coating onto the doll, it’s completed! You can bring it home on the day it’s done.
Kokeshi painting workshop fee is around 1800 - 2500 yen per person. Depend on the store, they have a different price, please ask the detail first. Reservation is required.
This workshop takes 30-90 minutes per session.
This workshop usually held inside the store or studio. You and your group usually can do souvenir shopping after the workshop.
In Miyagi prefecture, there is a store that can accommodate up to 150 pax.
Take some photos during the workshop or while the shopping time at the store. It will become memorable stuff for your social media needs.
Note: some stores prohibit taking pictures, kindly ask first.
Due to Covid 19 conditions, some stores will cut the occupancy of the workshop. Make sure you have enough time for doing this workshop (especially for a big group).
***Optional option may be different depending on the stores
Group tour & FIT Arrangements
What to expect by joining this workshop:
- Painting together with your group and feel the real Japanese traditional handmade stuff together.
- You can also customize this workshop for MICE arrangements. Such as painting the kokeshi with the client company logos, or using this experience for games and team building.
- As a group, you can see other participants' creativity, and it will be more interesting.
What to expect by joining this workshop:
- Joining this group alone or with family only, will give you more time to explore. Get more intense learning with kokeshi professional.
- You have more time for watching the making process and truly realize that there is quite the procedure from start to finish, and definitely give you a new appreciation for true kokeshi artists.