Coming this mid-June 2011, Iwako will have erasers in the style of Kokeshi dolls. I love Kokeshi dolls and have collected a few myself.
These dolls originated in northern Japan during the Edo period, 1600-1868. They are handmade from wood with a simple trunk, an enlarged head with a few thin and painted lines to define the face. The body has a floral design painted in red, black, and sometimes yellow. One characteristic of kokeshi dolls is their lack of arms or legs. The dolls emerged out of local life and culture and were first produced in the north east area of Japan known as the Tohoku region. It is commonly thought that woodwork artisans of the time know as Kijiya, (which means woodworker in Japanese) originally specialized in wooden household utensils such as trays and bowls. Then they began to make small dolls in the winter to sell to the tourists who came to bathe in the many onsens (hot springs) near their villages. The few people who could afford the luxury of such a pastime bought the Kokeshi dolls as a souvenir and took the dolls back to their own areas where they were often passed on to the children. This, they thought, would promise a good harvest, as it was believed that it would create a positive impression on the gods if children played with the dolls.