Kimekomi dolls (kimekomi ningyō, 木目込み人形) is believed to be first created by a Kyoto priest named Takahashi Tadashi during the middle of the Early Modern period (1603-1868). During a festival, Takahashi wanted to create a souvenir that could be purchased by those who attended the festival. He carved the dolls from the willow trees that lined the Kamo River in Kyoto. Because this earliest form used the willow trees for the body, it was called Kamo ningyō (willow-wood dolls). Takahashi adorned the wooden bodies with scraps of left over fabric used by the priests.
With the modernization of Japan and the introduction of technology and industrialization, Kimekomi dolls underwent a radical changed that allowed the dolls to be mass produced. The mass production of the bodies allowed for the dolls to be purchased at an affordable price and also allowed for kits to be sold to enthusiastic hobbyists.
Breaking down the sino graphs of “Kimekomi”, “ki” (木) means wood, “me” (目) means grooves, and “komi” (込み) the act ofpressing the fabric into the grooves. Today, kits already comes with the head made. The head is made by a process that can be thought as a Japanese “porcelain”. Unlike Western porcelain where it is baked, Japanese “porcelain” known as gofun, is created by a process of layering a mixture of powered shells with a liquid extracted from fish bones.