Japanese dolls collection: Vintage and Antique
dolls are known by the name 'ningyo' in Japan,
which literally means 'human shape'. Dolls have been
produced since the very early days of Japanese culture and
they played an important roll in Japan, at festivals, as
talisman, or just as a toy.
There are various types of Japanese dolls, some representing
children, some the imperial court, samurai warriors and
heroes, Kabuki and Noh theatre characters, and also people
of the daily life of Japanese cities. Many have a long tradition
and are still made today.
There are exist various types of traditional dolls in Japan.
During centuries a great variety of forms developed, from
dolls simply made out of paper by the children themselves
to valuably kimono dressed and wonderfully molded unique
objects, made by craftsmen and ordered by rich citizens
and noblemen for the girls' and boys' festivals.
Already for the birth of a child dolls, as
Ichimatsu, were given as a present from the relatives.
Kimekomi refers to a method of making dolls. The ancestors
of Kimekomi dolls are the Kamo ("willow-wood") dolls, small
dolls carved of willow and decorated with cloth scraps.
Kimekomi dolls start with a carved and/or molded base of
wood, wood compo, or (in some modern dolls) plastic foam.
A design of different patterned cloth scraps is planned
out, and the base is grooved so that the edges of the cloth
can be hidden in the grooves. The cloth is glued on and
the edges tucked in. The head and hands (if any) of the
doll are usually finished with gofun; the hair may be part
of the molded head or be a separate wig. These dolls have
become a very popular craft.
During the Tokugawa period travelers took
with them as a talisman, and Kokeshi dolls as souvenirs
from hot-spring resorts of Tohoku region.
The Gosho dolls
are one of noble descent, and it represent a uniquely Japanese
form. In most examples, clothing is limited to a strict
minimum and is either painted or pasted on. By tradition,
they represent chubby, almost naked little boys with large
heads, round bodies and brilliant white skin. They generally
show an originality and character which places them in a
special category of Japanese dolls.
The Gosho was created as a presentation doll and
was not meant to be a plaything. Although originally the
privilege of the aristocracy, Gosho dolls gradually
became widely popular. In Japan these dolls are considered
to be a classic art form and are appreciated as such.
Japanese traditional dolls on our site are presented wide
array of traditional techniques, each with distinctive characteristics.
You can see antique samurai dolls fully armored and
or Kabuki doll
with mask and on dance position, graceful
Hakata clay figurines
and other items of Japanese art.
Today all over the world antique dolls, including Japanese
dolls as well, belong to the most sought after collectors'
figurines are the best known craft items from Fukuoka
Prefecture, which lies in the north of the island of Kyushu.
The origin of this local specialty goes back to around 1586-1608.
In that year the feudal lord of Fukuoka, Nagamasa KURODA,
was having a new castle built. One day he noticed one of
the workmen making dolls from the clay used for the palace's
tile roof. The workmanship was so superb that the ruler
employed the craftsman to make dolls and ornaments for the
castle. Sohichi, the doll maker, passed his secrets down
through his family and the sons were figurine makers for
four generations. As a youth, however, the fifth Sohichi
revealed a weakness for "sake". This, plus lack of patience
for detailed work, made his father reluctant to put the
family's reputation in his hands. The professional secrets
were given to the doll maker's daughter who passed them
on to her son, the sixth Sohichi. This man, too, was a heavy
drinker, but for all of that he was skilled craftsman. Soon
after the revolutionary war in 1858, he died without passing
his trade secrets to his next generation. About eleven years
later, a group of artists pooled their talents to revive
the art of making pottery dolls. They developed a highly
finished substitute, which in 1885, was Exhibited at the
national exhibition representing the arts of Hakata. Originally
called the Sohichi-yaki (Sohichi Pottery), it gradually
became known as the Hakata doll after the place of