Kokeshi dolls are a quintessentially Japanese souvenir. Said to originally date back to the middle of the Edo period, the dolls come in various designs, shapes, and sizes, and make a wonderful memento from a visit to the land of the rising sun.
If you'd like to learn more about all things kokeshi, a visit to Gunma's Usaburo Kokeshi Factory is worth your while. The premises here acts as both a retail store, a fully operational kokeshi factory, and a hands-on craft workshop. You're able to purchase a wide variety of premade kokeshi dolls, including both traditional and modern inspired designs. You're also able to get a behind the scenes look at kokeshi artisans creating pieces behind the scenes. It certainly gives you a new appreciation for all the work that goes into making the dolls.
Perhaps the most memorable part of all though is getting to create a kokeshi doll for yourself. The workshops hosted here provide all you need to make your very own doll, and you're able to design it however you choose. Whether you decide to go down the traditional route or shake things up a little, you'll have a special piece of your time in Japan as a keepsake.
Usaburo Kokeshi Factory is located in Gunma Prefecture. The closest station is Yagihara Station on the JR Joetsu Line. From the station, the premises is approximately a ten-minute taxi ride away. Alternatively, if you're headed there by private vehicle, get off at the Shibukawa Interchange on the Kan-Etsu Expressway. Usaburo Kokeshi is around 15 minutes drive from the expressway exit.
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