Vintage Traditional Kokeshi

Vintage Traditional Narugo Kokeshi by Kengo, Onuma


Descriptive qualities& condition:

Dimensions: 9-3/4” h

This particular Narugo body is rare and quite different from the rest, for it has a thin tapered body with a square accented neck layered with Chrysanthemums, (Kasanegiku), on the body. The head and body are made of two pieces of wood and fitted into each other in such a way that the completed doll makes a squeaking sound when the head is turned. Her face has gentle features with eyes drawn with a single, crescent line with small pupils, (hitoemabuta), and eyebrows. She has a small Neko-Bana, (cat’s nose), and red mouth. The hair is suggested with flowers peeping out of the front top of her head.

Vintage Condition: Excellent, (“as is”) condition and retains the original craft/workmanship and is commensurate with age. Any discoloration, chipping/cracking, surface wear, or structural damage is noted. 

Japanese Traditional Kokeshi | Narugo-Kei (Family)

Prefecture: Miyaka


These are the popular “squeaking or crying child” dolls and are made of two pieces, with the head being attached to the body via a snap-in projection, allowing it to be turned, thus making the squeak. Naru is "sound or "cry," and ko is "child." Thus, naruko is "crying child," It's no surprise, then, that the Naruko kokeshi "cries" when her head is turned. They originally came from Narugo Onsen in Miyagi Prefecture and originated sometime in the Edo period when there were approximately 125 craftsmen producing this style. The Narugo kokeshi has been labeled the most sophisticated.

Collector's note – characteristics / painting style:

Narugo dolls are one of the most well-known families of Kokeshi and are defined by their straight-shaped body, narrowing slightly at the waist with beveled shoulders. Bangs set wide apart are the definitive feature of the head with side fringes, a single eyelid, and a cat nose. They also are very balanced, and typically have paintings of chrysanthemum, (Kiku), Iris (Ayame), or peony (Botan). Though these basically plain dolls are not as decorative as others of the Traditional school, their unique, flowing forms are stronger visually because of their inherent elegance.

Notable artists:

Oonuma, Jun, b. 1924
Oonuma Sinbei, Master
Izu Mamoru, b.1925
Izu Sadao, Master
Kakizawa Koretaka, b. 1930
Takahashi Morio, Master