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In ancient times, the Japanese used to make clay dolls, paper dolls, etc. for use in religious rites or for burial in the tombs of kings and other nobles. Dolls were developed as ornaments for festivals and religious observances. Typical of these are the hinaningy├┤ dolls put on display for the Doll's Festival on March 3rd.

Dolls are made locally as objects of art or toys all over Japan. There is a huge variety of styles and materials. Gosho dolls were originally made as presents to decorate the Imperial Palace. Saga dolls are the richly-colored dolls first made by the sculptors of Buddhist images. Ky├┤ dolls are famous for their gorgeous, specially-woven costumes, and Hakata dolls for their beautiful baked finish. The most typical of all the Japanese dolls are the cylindrical wooden Kokeshi dolls, found in various districts all over Japan.