Small Japanese wooden kokeshi doll shaped like the head of Daruma with five smaller Daruma teeth. This interesting figure is less than 40 years old and is in good condition with some small marks and scratches from handling and slight discoloration from age and display. Please read below to learn about Daruma-san as well as the history of kokeshi dolls, one of Japan’s most unique and distinctive folk crafts.
“Life falls down seven times, yet gets up eight…” This popular Japanese proverb is commonly associated with the Indian Buddhist sage Daruma. Daruma is the more familiar name of the historical Buddhist monk Bodhidarma, who lived sometime during the fifth or sixth century AD. Daruma is credited with the founding of the Zen sect of Buddhism, which he is reputed to have introduced into China during his travels there. Some of the legends surrounding this figure include tales that he achieved enlightenment or satori only after meditating in a cave for seven years without blinking or moving his eyes. Another story tells that his enlightenment occurred within a temple in China where he spent his seven years sitting in a room staring at a wall. Apparently at some point during his long meditation Daruma became so overcome with fatigue that he cut off his eyelids in anger and tossed them to the ground. These are reputed to have then sprouted into China’s first green tea plants! It is said that Daruma’s long meditation caused his arms and legs to wither and fall off, leaving him as an armless, legless and eyelidless (yet enlightened) Bodhidarma… The Japanese love this story and admire Daruma for his spirit and determination, and each new year many Japanese will buy a paper-mache Daruma tumbler doll in order to enlist its services in helping them persevere towards their own goals or achievements. The dolls are sold with unpainted eyes, allowing the new owner to paint in one eye to symbolize the start of a new goal or venture. The doll is then placed in a prominent place within the home or at work in order to remind the owner to keep after their aim. Japanese students especially utilize Daruma to motivate them with their studies; placing a one-eyed Daruma before them on their desk as motivation to work hard and make the grade. Only after the goal is achieved will the owner then paint in the second eye, symbolizing a realized goal. Daruma dolls which have completed their jobs as perseverance role models are normally then brought to a temple to be burned during special ceremonies set aside for this purpose. The last images below are various representations of Daruma found at a Zen temple near our home in Japan.
Height: 1.8 inches (4.7 centimeters)
Weight: 1.2 ounces (33 grams)
Images of the kokeshi we list are often uploaded to our Japan Vintage Kokeshi Blog which is an on-line gallery of unique and interesting kokeshi dolls. The purpose of this blog is strictly to share images of some of the wonderful dolls we encounter in the course of our work, and to provide a digital archive to preserve these images into the future. If you purchase a kokeshi from us and do not want a digital copy of your doll displayed in the photo blog or archive then please simply send us an email indicating your preference and we will promptly remove the image.
More about Kokeshi
Kokeshi wooden dolls are one of the most unique and interesting of Japan’s many traditional folk crafts. Originating in the early 19th century in the northern spa towns of Miyagi prefecture, kokeshi are thought to have first been produced as toys for children from leftover bits of scrap wood. These early dolls were made by craftsmen who earned their living producing other types of woodcraft, but who eventually began to create kokeshi to be sold as souvenirs in the area’s many local hot spring resorts. Over time the craft was refined, with many regional varieties appearing reflecting a wide range of technical and artistic variation. Today there are several schools of kokeshi design led by master craftsmen who often pass their trade to succeeding generations within their own family.
When collecting kokeshi it is important to note that you will likely encounter two main types; dolls which are made by artists and those which are mass-produced to be sold as souvenirs. The former are usually one-of-a-kind originals created by dedicated artisans who take their work very seriously and place great emphasis on traditional design and appearance. The other type of kokeshi are those which are manufactured specifically to be sold as souvenirs of famous or interesting places such as resorts or hot springs. These are produced en-mass, and while often attractive and interesting memorabilia they are not as frequently sought after by collectors and usually command a lower selling price. How can you determine if a kokeshi is an ‘artist’ or ‘craftsman’ style doll? This is actually quite easy as artist dolls are normally signed (on the bottom) by the maker, and may have no other writing on the body of the doll besides decorative calligraphy. Souvenir types on the other hand are normally unsigned and may have the name of the place which sold them conspicuously visible on the body of the doll. Collectors of Kokeshi typically place special emphasis on the facial quality of the dolls, desiring certain types – gentle or mischievous for example – over others. One interesting Japanese Kokeshi collector we previously met expressed a preference for newer dolls over older ones, fearing the older dolls may be haunted.
item code: R4S4-0004532
ship code: L1650