Kokeshi are traditional Japanese dolls, typically with no arms or legs. At Tsuchiyu Kokeshi, they are handmade on a lathe. Kokeshi are great as decorations, or as commemorative items: A wedding couple might have their kokeshi likenesses made, or a football team might have a kokeshi mascot made up.
Kokeshi are manufactured in eleven production centres in Tohoku, each one associated with a hot spring resort. Each location produces a different style of kokeshi. In the Tsuchiyu style, for example, when craftsmen are painting body art on a doll at the spinning lathe, they sometimes reverse the lathe direction, subtly breaking the rhythm of the patterns.
Kokeshi dolls predate Matryoshka dolls, the famous Russian nesting dolls, by 200 years. One story has it that Sergey Malyutin, the Russian painter who designed the original set of Matryoshka dolls in 1890, saw a set of Japanese nesting kokeshi dolls at the estate a famous Russian industrialist soon before he created the Matryoshkas.