Arts of Asia in Reach
Kokeshi Dolls Lesson Plan
3. Strategies & Procedures

Engage (Motivation)

Motivate students with background information about kokeshi dolls. In Japan, kokeshi are made of wood in simple cylindrical shapes. They are turned on a lathe and then painted by hand. Many people collect kokeshi and there is even a museum entirely devoted to kokeshi (called Nihon Kokeshi-kan or Japan Kokeshi Center Museum). Each design made by a different artist is uniquely distinctive; different regions are known for characteristic designs.


Students will explore the variety of kokeshi dolls as they do Internet searches and visit the library. Note differences in size and shape, such as the body of the doll which can be either cylindrical or spherical. Students should also notice the different styles and patterns painted on the dolls' bodies.Have students look at a world map and find Japan.

Have students discuss different types of land divisions found in the U.S., such as states, counties, cities, and compare them to the divisions found in Japan. Ask students the following questions:
  • How does a prefecture compare to a state?
  • How many prefectures can you find in Japan?
  • How many states are there in the U.S.?
  • Many prefectures in Japan are specifically known for their type of kokeshi doll. Can you think of a city or state in the United States that is known for manufacturing a specific item? (i.e.: Pittsburg- steel; Detroit- cars, etc.)


Students will create their own Kokeshi dolls.
  1. Paint both the 2" and 1.5" dowel ends with a base coat using white acrylic paint.
  2. Let base coat dry.
  3. Paint 1.5" dowel end with flesh color of student's choice.
  4. Paint 2" dowel end with solid color of student's choice.
  5. Let dowel ends dry completely.
  6. For girl kokeshi:
    Using the tip of a Q-tip dipped into yellow acrylic paint, make several flower centers (one circle) over the painted 2" dowel end.
    For boy kokeshi:
    Paint a thick horizontal stripe around the center of the 2" dowel end to create an obi around the "waistline."
  7. For girl kokeshi:
    Using another Q-tip, dip the end into a mixture of the solid color used to paint the 2" dowel end plus white acrylic paint.
    Apply end of Q-tip to create five circles around each yellow circle center, forming the petals of flowers.
    For boy kokeshi:
    Paint a thinner horizontal line around the entire 2" dowel end in the center of the obi using the same solid color as the rest of the body.
  8. For both kokeshi dolls:
    Using black acrylic paint, use the tip of the paintbrush to create a short hairline on the top of the 1.5" dowel end. (For boy kokeshi, start about 1/4 the way down from the top of the dowel, and paint up to the top; for girl kokeshi start 1/4 from top for bangs, 3/4 from top for the rest of the doll's hair)
  9. Let black dry completely.
  10. For girl kokeshi:
    Using another Q-tip, recreate one or two of the flowers from the girl kokeshi doll's dress as hair accessories.
    For boy kokeshi:
    Using the same color of the doll's obi, paint a thin line around the doll's head just above the hairline to create the hachimaki.
  11. Let both dowels dry completely.
  12. Apply white glue or paste to the bottom flat edge of the 1.5" dowel end.
  13. Press glued edge of 1.5" dowel end to top of the 2" dowel end.
  14. Let glue dry completely.
  15. Using a permanent fine point marker, draw details of the doll's face.
  16. Apply a thin coat of Modge Podge gloss to entire surface of doll.

Continue to: 4. Assessment & Closure