In the Schilling Community Center on Kadena Air Base you will find a hidden treasure of Kokeshi and sayonara dolls.  As you begin to appreciate the local culture and decide to start collecting items that will bring back fond memories of your time spent in Okinawa, the Kokeshi dolls should make it to the top of your list.

I did not embrace this idea the last time we were here and I regreted it.  So, as I was reminded recently, while saying goodbye to several of our Okinawa Hai editors, a sayonara doll is great to have early in your tour.  A sayonara doll is a Kokeshi doll with a scroll of paper used for sharing parting thoughts when you get ready to leave.  It’s a very unique memory to take back to the states and one you will not regret!  Whether you buy one for yourself or wait to get one as a gift, having this little treasure early on allows you to have everyone who leaves before you sign it.


I love the idea of giving these as a  Welcome-To-The-Island gift or a Just-Because-I-Like-You gift.  Sayonara dolls are mostly a western tradition created for foreigners as a momento to remind them of their island experience in the form of a traditional Japanese folk art.


The Okinawan Gift Ware Shop, located inside the Schilling Community Center, has an incredibly large selection of Kokeshi dolls.  This is not the only place to purchase these wooden memoirs but it seems to be the most comprehensive selection of them.  You will find a variety of sizes and colors ranging from $10. for a smaller doll and as high up as $220. for larger dolls made by a National Living Treasure.


These dolls were first made in the northeastern province of Japan about 150 years ago.  It was a simple wooden toy for the children who belonged to the farming households in that area and became much more than that as the countryside developed culturally.


This store also carries a varity of obis, washi eggs, wedding kimonos, washi paper and kits.  When you purchase an obi in the store the cost, anywhere from $45.-$500., includes the tying fee.  But, if you already own an obi and need a place to have it tied, their tying fee runs between $20 and $25.  Plan on about 1 week for this service.


This shop is a great place to purchase washi paper for scrapbooking, cardmaking or to make your own washi paper items.  They sell washi paper kits that allow you to make a Gata shoe box, washi eggs or a picture frame.


My collection of Kokeshi dolls is growing rapidly thanks to the help of my gift-giving friends.  I also received my most recent Kokeshi doll when I won “Most Bunkos” at a wives’ function.  I loved that our hostess created her bunko theme around this popular object of folk art that has continued until the present day.

I have received one Sayonara doll and 3 Kokeshis as gifts.  How many are in your collection and which one is your favorite?  My favorite is the doll I received at a luncheon with the USMC emblem on it – a great reminder that “Home is where the Marine Corps sends you!”


In the Shogun Inn there is a small, satellite store that mostly carries Kokeshi dolls and Shi Shi dogs.  They are open earlier than the Schilling store and they stay open later, for your convenience.  They are open Monday-Saturday from 8am until 8 pm and on Sunday they are open from 8am until 3pm.


Schilling Community Center, Kadena AB

Special Note:  This store takes Credit Cards, Yen and American dollars.  Your credit card will be charge in Yen.  Their telephone number is 098-959-1307.

Location:  Schilling Community Center on Kadena Air Base, near the Keystone Movie Theater.

Hours:  Monday-Saturday 10am to 7pm and on Sundays and holidays they are open from Noon until 6pm.

Another Note:  If you want to purchase a Kokeshi doll and contribute to charity, check out our military  gift shops here.


  1. Michelle- The ladies who taught our class had mentioned that you can buy blank doll pieces in the craft shop. However, they gave us a good word of warning: You have to sand the pieces with fine sandpaper before you can paint them, or the dolls will have rough patches. Having kids paint one of their own is a cute idea!

  2. Our spouse’s group recently took a Kokeshi doll class at Crafty Things on Kadena. We were given two pieces of blank wood (a sphere for the head and a piece shaped like a Kokeshi doll body), and the instructors guided us along the process of painting and putting the doll together. It was fun to see how different everybody’s dolls looked when we were all finished. And now I have a totally unique Kokeshi doll with a fond memory behind it!

  3. Tabby – Unfortunately, I have no idea where the Marine Corps Kokeshi came from and the person who gave it to me is off-island now. I assumed it came from one of the gift shops but Andrea obviously found out that that isn’t true. However, I know she got it on-island as it was part of a package of items I received at a wive’s coffee. I’ll keep my eyes pealed and let you know what I find out!!! Thanks for asking!!!!

  4. Tabby,
    I think they are special made because I asked all 3 of the gift shops and all of them said they didn’t carry them and never have. Maybe I spoke with the wrong person when asking but that is the answer I got from all three. I have seen unit Kokeshi’s as well so someone out there knows who to contact to get them made but I can’t seem to find anyone who is willing to share the info.

  5. OOOH! I am so glad you posted on this. I always had the sneaking suspicion that there was more to the Schilling Community Center, but I’d never ventured in for a look. I will definitely be going now!
    A quick question: Someone told me that someone else has to give you your Sayonara doll. Is this untrue? I love your idea of getting one now so that everyone can sign it before they leave!

  6. Great question, Kim!!! I am told that the wood varies widely but the most generally used type of wood is native dogwood which is both find grained and light in tone as well as easily available and durable!!! Thanks for asking!!!!

    Elle – the hyperlink that I included at the end of the post takes you to another post we did on all the giftshops. Anyone who clicks on it will be taken there and can find each giftshops website, if one exists!!! At least 3 out of the 4 of the giftshops do carry kokeshi dolls – especially the ones with each military branch insignia on it!!!!! Thanks for the reminder!!!!

  7. I had no idea this was in the Schilling center! I thought the Schilling center was just for seminars, classes, and the weekend flea market! I can’t *believe* I’ve missed out on this shopping opportunity. Yikes. Makes me wonder what else I’m unaware of?