photo Wooden dolls


Carved wooden dolls (mokuchō ningyō) are made by separately carving the head, torso, and limbs out of paulownia wood. The limbs are then assembled using bamboo pegs. Paulownia has a low sap content, making it less likely to attract insects. It is also lightweight, strong, and does not warp easily, making it an ideal material for doll making.
The small, detailed hair ornaments and accessories are also made entirely out of wood. For these items, harder woods than paulownia are chosen. Wooden forms demand a high level of skill, and it is especially difficult to make the hands appear natural and expressive.


  • 1.The head, torso, and limbs are carved from paulownia wood.
  • 2.The wooden pieces are coated in several layers of gofun (a white paint of pulverized shells) and sanded smooth.
  • 3.Adhesive is applied to grooves on the doll’s torso, and the doll is dressed by tucking the edges of the outfit into the grooves.
  • 4.The hair and face are painted, and the limbs are coated in gofun and attached to the body.
  • Reference: Nihon Kōgeikai Higashi Nihon Shibu (Japan Kōgei Association Eastern Branch), ed., Dentō kōgei-tte nani? – miru, shiru, tanoshimu gaido bukku (What Are Traditional Crafts? –A Guidebook to Seeing, Learning, and Enjoying). Unsodo, 2013.