Kokeshi dolls originated as handmade wooden dolls with round limbless bodies and round heads. The kokeshi doll may initially have had a spiritual significance. Perhaps given as a gift to watch over a child as the child grew and representing the child’s guardian, keeper of the child’s soul or the giver’s wish for a healthy child.
Each doll was hand painted and no two faces where alike giving each doll an individual personality. Possibly the giver carefully picked a doll representing a wish for the child such as to be creative and happy or industrious and serious.
The designs and patterns painted on the bodies were developed and passed down through the generations and provide clues as to the area where a particular doll was made.
Creative kokeshi dolls are a more modern doll and were first made after WWII. Although they retain the limbless kokeshi characteristic, other features of these dolls are distinctly different such as more shapely bodies. Creative kokeshi are designed by the individual artist and have modern charms unique to that artist.
Whether a traditional or creative kokeshi doll the most striking characteristic is still the obvious pursuit of simple beauty.