Posted by: softypapa | December 22, 2007

Kokeshi Japanese Wooden Doll Shinto Inari Fox Figurines

Kokeshi Japanese Wooden Doll Shinto Inari Fox Figurines Japan Tokaido Softypapa Jinja Kitsune

Kokeshi Japanese Wooden Doll Shinto Inari Fox Figurines Japan Tokaido Softypapa Jinja Kitsune

Kokeshi Japanese Wooden Doll Shinto Inari Fox Figurines Japan Tokaido Softypapa Jinja Kitsune

Kokeshi Japanese Wooden Doll Shinto Inari Fox Figurines Japan Tokaido Softypapa Jinja Kitsune 


Inari is the name of the Japanese Shinto (native religion of Japan) god who watches over and protects the rice harvest.  As rice has long been the staple food of the Japanese, this god is obviously very important, and shrines to Inari are reported to number more than 20,000 in Japan.  Inari’s messenger is the magical, shape-shifting fox or kitsune as it is called in Japanese.  Images of foxes are commonly seen flanking Inari in paintings of this god, as well as guarding the entrance to Inari shrines.  Inari messenger foxes are said to possess the ability to hear and see all human activities as well as to transform into human form (usually a bewitching woman).  Inari fox messengers are said to grow in power as they age and will only gain a tail (a symbol of power) after reaching the ripe old age of 100.  Fox messengers are most powerful after they have lived for 1000 years at which point they may have a total of nine tails, grey or white fur and will have attained the power of infinite vision.  Fox lore is common in Asia, though it is normally thought to have originated in India.  Some Asian cultures view the fox as a strictly malevolent creature, though it Japan it is just as often portrayed as a powerful, yet kind creature with a genuine interest in the welfare of humans.

About the Listed Item

Interesting Japanese wooden kokeshi-style doll display featuring a group of four Shinto Inari fox figures resting atop a fuku masu measuring bowl which was a tool used in old Japan to measure quantities of rice.  This unique doll display 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.  One of the ears is missing from one of the foxes (this damage is visible and noted in the details photos).  Please read below to learn about the history of kokeshi dolls, one of Japan’s most unique and distinctive folk crafts.

Height (from bottom of box to top of tallest fox): 4.7 inches (12.0 centimeters)
Width (across bottom of box): 3.5 inches (9.0 centimeters)
Weight: 5.6 ounces (159 grams)

Important note:
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.

Click here to see more kokeshi!
here to see other Inari fox figures!
here to see more Shinto items!
here to see other Japanese dolls!
here to see additional treasures from Japan!

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: R1S4-0003587
ship code: G6


  1. These are beautiful! Even with the missing, they are all so gorgeous! Are they for sale? If they are, I’d be interested in obtaining them. I love foxes and these are just so gorgeous!

  2. are these vintage Inari foxes for sale?

    item code: R1S4-0003587
    ship code: G6

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