Small Japanese wooden kokeshi doll designed to resemble a Tanuki Raccoon Dog. This interesting doll is less than 40 years old and is in fair condition with marks and scratches from handling and discoloration and stains from age and display. Please read below to learn about Tanuki as well as the history of kokeshi dolls, one of Japan’s most unique and distinctive folk crafts.
The Tanuki or “Raccoon Dog” is a well known and very popular character in Japanese art, song and especially children’s literature. Tanuki are, in fact, real animals resembling raccoons in both size and general appearance. The animal’s habitat includes most of the Japanese islands as well as much of central Asia and even parts of Eastern Europe (they have even been spotted in Germany!). The Japanese have long used the image of the Tanuki as a symbol of the dangers of overindulgence in alcohol. A famous and very commonly seen type of Tanuki statue features a pot-bellied male specimen standing on two feet with an empty purse in one hand and an empty jug of sake in the other. The animals genitals are distinctly visible with a rather shrunken penis and grotesquely swollen testes. The message behind this curious image is that an excess of sake will leave one with an empty purse and full libido yet diminished ability to perform. Perhaps this story explains why Tanuki statues are a common sight at the entrance to many Japanese bars and nightclubs.
Height: 2.5 inches (6.5 centimeters)
Weight: 2.9 ounces (84 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: R4S4-0004530
ship code: L1650