CLASKA Gallery & Shop "Do"
Closes July 31

For a popular souvenir of Japan, the traditional wooden kokeshi doll has a surprisingly little-documented history. While it's known that they were first made sometime during the mid- to late-Edo Period (1603-1867) in the northeastern region of Tohoku, their original purpose is unclear. They have been known to be used toys, bought as souvenirs of Tohoku's hot-spring areas and it's been suggested that they make good shoulder massagers.

Recently, kokeshi have experienced a bit of a comeback as a trendy icon. Their distinct shape of slim, cylindrical bodies topped with oversized, usually round, heads was the inspiration behind Nintendo's Wii Mi characters. There have also been kokeshi-inspired bento lunch boxes, exercise weights, makeup kits and other products, and the U.S.-based online craft site Etsy has a wide range of customized kokeshi-style dolls.