Japanese Doll (日本人形)

Japanese doll is the general term for dolls which have Japanese clothes and hairstyles and reflect traditional Japanese culture. In general, the term Japanese doll frequently refers to 'Ichimatsu ningyo' dolls or 'Isho ningyo' (costume) dolls. As well as craftworks for display in ordinary households, there are also dolls which are extremely valuable artworks.

In 1927, when a batch of Ichimatsu dolls were sent to the USA as 'Ambassadors of Friendship', an explanation of Japanese dolls was attached.

There was a tradition of including Isho-ningyo costume dolls in the wedding trousseau of daughters of samurai in the Edo Period and the dolls played an important role in bearing the burdens or bad luck in place of the bride. Isho-ningyo dolls are made with a variety of costumes, which can be used to distinguish the position in society and occupation of the doll. For example, 'apprentice geisha,' 'wisteria maiden,' 'town maiden,' 'samurai daughter' or 'noble lady'. As they were also meant to protect the bride from ill fortune, it was commended to furnish the wedding trousseau with the most grand and beautiful doll. The custom of giving these kinds of dolls as wedding furnishings was common until the middle of the 1980s.

Even among Japanese dolls, traditionally the hands and feet, faces, hairdos and costumes of the dolls for the Girls Day and Boy's Day Festivals are each made by a craftsman who specialize in that part of the doll. The doll parts are assembled in order by the doll maker. Then finally a craftsperson who specializes in putting the costumes on the dolls finishes off the doll with the costume. The commonly called yusoku ningyo (noble dolls) are made by this method. They are mainly made in Kyoto and Tokyo.


Ichimatsu ningyo
Refer to Ichimatsu ningyo for details
Kimekomi ningyo (wooden dolls)
Refer to Kimekomi ningyo for details
Oyama ningyo
A general term for dolls with female costumes. They are often dressed with Japanese dance costumes such as the wisteria maiden or shiokumi doll (doll carrying sea water to make salt). They are called Oyama dolls after the doll maker Jiro Saburo Oyama. The method of manufacture is the same as for Isho-ningyo (costume dolls).

Fuzoku ningyo
Yamato ningyo
A general term for Ichimatsu ningyo, Azuma ningyo (Azuma [eastern] dolls), and Kyo ningyo (Kyoto dolls). As the dolls were called different names in different regions around Japan, in 1933 Tokubei YAMADA (Yoshitoku X) originated the general term 'Yamato Ningyo'. It is a dress-up doll with head, arms and legs made of a type of wood composition called toso (from the paulownia tree), and trunk made with cloth stuffed with sawdust, and they were sold without costumes as the customer made their own kimono or costumes for the dolls. As well as being a toy for girls, they were also used as models for practicing the sewing of Japanese clothes.

Gosho ningyo (Imperial palace dolls)
Mostly baby boy dolls or Imperial Palace dolls made of clay or toso(type of wood composition). Due to their looks, in the Edo Period they were also called shiragiku ningyo (white chrysanthemum dolls), zudai ningyo (large headed dolls) or Izukura ningyo after a doll dealer. The term Gosho ningyo came into use after the Meiji Period. During the time of the sankin-kotai system in the Edo period, in which feudal lords were obligated to live in Edo each alternate year, daimyo (feudal lords) from western Japan, the Gosho dolls were given as gifts by the Imperial court and used as souvenirs when the feudal lords returned home.

Hakata ningyo (Hakata dolls)
Dolls made of clay and baked.

Nara ningyo (Nara dolls)
Simple local specialty dolls carved from wood
They are also classified as a type of 'one-knife carving'.

Kokeshi ningyo (wooden dolls)
Local specialty dolls

odai ningyo
Dolls with a Gosho doll standing on a wooden dais with flowers or animals, and representing the Noh stage or lucky charms. Nobles and aristocracy presented princesses with gifts of these dolls for birthdays and seasonal festivals.

For information on regional dolls, refer to the article on local dolls.

[Original Japanese]