The humble kokeshi were said to be invented in the Tohoku region of Japan as souvenirs for travelers coming to enjoy the regional hot springs. The simple design of traditional kokeshi is a round “head” attached to a cylinder body, created from cherry or mizuki wood by an artisan using a lathe. If the faces look familiar, you can thank Nintendo, who based the design of Nintendo Mii avatars on kokeshi facial features. Modern twists on kokeshi include more elaborately shaped heads and bodies and detailed painted clothing, though the simple facial designs general remain unchanged.


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