photo <i>Tōso</i> dolls


Tōso dolls (tōso ningyō) are made of a modeling compound called tōso (a mixture of paulownia sawdust and paste) attached to a core of solid paulownia. Tōso can be freely fashioned while soft to produce all manner of forms. The molded forms are thoroughly dried before use to ensure that they won’t warp.
The dolls are dressed by tucking the edges of the clothing into grooves on the body in a technique known as kimekomi. The grooves are cut to align with the seams of the outfit, and an adhesive is applied to secure the fabric in place. In addition to securing the outfit, kimekomi is used to create subtle details on the final outfit.


  • 1.The head, torso, and limbs are shaped from tōso and left to dry.
  • 2.Washi paper is applied to the head and legs and then coated with gofun (a white paint of pulverized shells). The surface is sanded, and the hair and face are painted.
  • 3.Grooves are cut into the body to align with the seams of the outfit, and the edges of the fabric are tucked into the grooves.
  • 4.The head and legs are attached to the body, and the doll is complete.
  • 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.