The Era of Isobel’s Dolls

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Some of the Antique Doll Study Club members and dolls presenting for Smithsonian Museum Day at the Zimmerman House

The doll club to which I belong, The Antique Doll Study Club of Oregon, presents some extraordinary programs and displays for the public, thanks to our innovative and creative members.  This Saturday past, for Smithsonian Museum Day, we presented a display of antique dolls representing a particular era in the Zimmerman House in Gresham, Oregon.

The Historic Zimmerman House was built in 1874 and was home to three generations of the Zimmerman Family.  Their furnishings and personal articles remain in this two-story Victorian home, with nine rooms open to the public.”

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Four daughters, in elegant Edwardian attire;  the last generation to live in the Zimmerman house.  Isobel is pictured bottom right.

The third and last generation to occupy the house consisted of four daughters: Jessie, Olive, Mabel, and the youngest, Isobel. Isobel was born in 1899 and lived in the house until the end of her life in 1992.

Isobel Zimmerman as a child

Isobel as a child

Amazingly, the Zimmerman House still holds the contents of three generations who lived there, and the rooms display life in the early twentieth century.

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The front door, open to invite guests this day.  The front parlor, where we displayed our period dolls, is to the right in this photo.

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At the top of the stairs is a landing where the children played.  Isobel’s and her sisters’ toys are still there.  Since cousins, nieces, and nephews came to visit, this was a play place for boys, as well as girls.

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A child sized dresser displays more toys of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century belonging to Zimmerman children.

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A Zimmerman cradle with more family dolls and toys

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Here are the bisque dolls that Isobel played with as a child.

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An upstairs bedroom displays two doll trunks in superb condition.  A third trunk is near the dolls in another bedroom, still filled with Isobel’s doll clothing.

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A dreamy view of the bright front bedroom.  In good weather, the Zimmerman children would go out onto the veranda from this bedroom, above the porch, to play.

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The front parlor where we displayed our period dolls

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One corner of the parlor is presided over by this elegant piano.

The era of Isobel’s childhood was 1899 to about 1913.  This is the period we chose for our presentation of dolls.  The dolls we displayed represented those that would have been available in stores and catalogs during the time of Isobel’s childhood.

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The main table with our presentation dolls

The Antique Doll Study Club of Oregon, presenting this display, has been a member of the United Federation of Doll Clubs for 45 years.  Many collectors of antique dolls consider their dolls to be representatives of the history, art, and science of the past.  Innovations were in progress during this time period which influenced materials and construction methods for toys and dolls.  The dolls of Isobel’s childhood era were made of cloth, wood, papier mache, bisque, china, wax, early composition, celluloid, and metal.

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Our second, smaller table of dolls

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These two dolls are made of an experimental material–Celluloid, an early type of plastic.

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Wax dolls continued to be available in this era.  Wax, reinforced with resin, was poured directly into a mold, or a head made of another material, such as papier mache, was dipped in wax to give it a more lifelike complexion.

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Composition was a popular material for doll heads of this time.

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China dolls, though waning in popularity, continued to be manufactured to good advantage.  Fiona and Dorothy, holding the doll house twins, Pink and Blue, were proud to represent this category in the first decade of the twentieth century.

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The bisque dolls of this era were well represented, as it was the height of their popularity.  (Isobel’s own two bisque dolls, shown in a photo above, seem well-loved, as evidenced by their trunk full of clothing.)  Represented here are many German bisque dolls, with a few originating from France.  The Dolly Face is evident, as well as Character dolls and babies.  Some of the smaller dolls in front are all-bisque, while larger dolls have bodies made of other materials such as composition, stuffed leather, and stuffed cloth.

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Cloth dolls were also seeing innovations during this time, most notably with lithograth printing.  The tall girl in back is an Art Fabric Mills doll, purchased as a sheet of printed fabric, then cut out, sewn, stuffed, and dressed at home.  The Topsy Turvy doll, front right, was made by Bruckner for Horsman circa 1909, with lithographed and pressed heads.  Center, in the blue dress, is a Martha Chase doll with an oil paint covered cloth head.

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Dolls made of wood continued to be available.  An American toy company, Schoenhut, had just begun to add dolls to their line in 1911. The bonnet girl in the red dress is a fine example of their early dolls.

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Papier mache is another material used in doll making for decades that continued to be available during this time.

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Dolls with metal heads were made during the Edwardian period.  These examples show painted, as well as inserted, eyes. One doll has a wig, while the rest have molded hair.

We Ladies of the Antique Doll Study Club of Oregon were delighted to visit with Isobel Zimmerman in her Edwardian era for Smithsonian Museum Day on September 21st, 2019.

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Karen Humbert,  Maria Vaughan,  Polly Bingham,  Jennifer Stewart,  Pat Sharp

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Kathy Moore,  Karen Humbert,  Jennifer Stewart,  Maria Vaughan

Even though, like Isobel, we grow up, we continue to value our dolls for the history, art, and science that they represent, and the joy they bring to us.

Isobel Zimmerman young Edwardian dress

Isobel Zimmerman as she may have appeared to receive us in her home.

 

 

 

 

 

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Ningyo: An Overview of Japanese Dolls, Part 4

B 33 Vintage boy ichimatsu

Dolls for Entertainment and Play

While all of the ningyo are invaluable to collectors of Asian art, it is the play dolls that are most endearing to doll enthusiasts. “Huggable” dolls, made for and played with by children, carry that undeniable charm of a childhood from long ago, or one in progress right now.

B 34 Bunraku Japanese traditional performing arts

Bunraku theater puppets. Note black hooded puppeteers who do not show up on the stage during a performance.

Bunraku-ningyo or Theatrical Dolls for Puppet Theater: Although there are several types of puppet or theater dolls in Japan, Bunraku puppets are perhaps the most complex and layered, and are considered as one of the most sophisticated doll forms in the world. The puppets are themselves of simple construction with loosely attached limbs for great mobility, and detachable heads for interchangeability. Their depth and mystery comes from how they are transformed on stage. Puppeteers wear all black with hoods to manipulate the puppets on stage, sometimes with as many as three operators per puppet. They transform the inert doll magically in great dramas of emotion, power, pathos, agony, heroism, and loss. To quote Alan Scott Pate once more, “Such is their extraordinary sense of vivacity onstage, that to see them on their stands, inert, after a performance it is difficult to believe that they are actually inanimate.”

B 35 Karakuri Japanese mechanical doll

Karakuri Mechanical Doll with western clockwork mechanism

Karakuri-ningyo or Mechanical Dolls:  Just as with the European automaton, there are dolls in Japan that can move by means of strings, hand cranks, and knobs, for home entertainment. Some are simple, such as a karakuri gosho figure who lifts his arms to don a mask. Some are more complicated tableaux. Many of these are divided into four categories: musicians, transformations, animal scenes, and performers. The facades of the bases depict longevity motifs such as cranes, turtles, bamboo, and pine.

Karakuri ningyo showing base with motifs

Karakuri ningyo with music box mechanism, showing base with motifs

 

B 36 Keue saiko Ningyo with wigs

Keue Saiku doll with many wigs

Keue Saiku: Almost all of the keue saiku depict animals, so could be classified as gangu, or toys, rather than ningyo. However, the interchangeable wig doll falls within this category. The figures portray at once a sense of whimsy and profound realism. “Saiku” means fine workmanship, and “keue” means thread planting, indicating the creation of these toys involved fine crafting by individually inserting silk threads in the figures.

B 37 Mitsuori kneeling woman

Mitsuore-ningyo illustrating the way in which the doll can fold its legs to kneel in the Japanese style.

Mitsuore-ningyo or Three Fold Dolls: Mitsuore, as well as ichimatsu, are also called daki-ningyo or huggable dolls, and are meant to be held and dressed. This is a style of doll that is more familiar to gaijin, or foreigners. This doll, introduced in the late 18th century, was an expensive toy doll with a technically complicated structure. It is pliable with cloth upper arms, easily dressed for a change of clothing. Because of the hollowed out backs of the thighs, this doll can stand, sit, or kneel.

B 38 Three Geiko with a Doll 1938

Three Geiko (higher-level apprentice Geisha) with a Doll 1938

As well as being play dolls for children, the daki-ningyo were also popular with geisha (“arts person”) and maiko, (“dancing child” or apprentice geisha). This is evidenced by images in woodblock prints and photographs in the mid-Edo through Showa periods. This type of photo became a populay souvenir for tourists after Japan was opened in 1853.

B 39 Japanese Boy Ichimatsu with Haori Better Quality 1

Ichimatsu Boy from author’s collection. His hair is painted on.

Ichimatsu-ningyo: While still holding artistic appeal, these are truly huggable play dolls depicting children of about six or seven years of age with their bendable fabric portioned limbs, and often a squeaker in their mid-sections.

B 40 Mitsuori Ningyo Boy Edo Period 2

Mitsuori Ningyo Boy, Edo Period. Of note is the shaved hairstyle of the period with longer hair in front of the ears.

Most early ichimatsu, before the Friendship Dolls of 1927, depicted boys. These dolls are individually artist made from molded parts covered with gofun, with some being more artistically rendered than others. A paper bearing the artist’s signature wraps the torso before the doll is dressed.

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Ichimatsu from the author’s collection. Note the two babies in the front of the photo.

Ichimatsu depicting younger babies and miniature play doll families are also made as children’s toys.

C A 28 dollhouse size play ichimatsue dolls

These miniature dollhouse sized ningyo are from the author’s collection. The okaasan and otosan are 4″ tall. They come in a little basket with a lid.

B 44 Miss Tottori 1927 send-off party

Miss Tottori: Photo from the 1927 send-off party (Sending from Japan to USA)

Torei-ningyo, Friendship or Ambassador Dolls: The most famous of the ichimatsu-ningyo are the Friendship Dolls who were sent to America in 1927 after 12,739 department store variety “Blue-eyed” dolls were sent to Japan the previous year as an overture of goodwill following discrimination of Japanese citizens in the United States.

B 42 Japanese girls with blue eyed dolls

Japanese girls holding blue eyed dolls sent to Japan in 1926 from American children

Whole volumes have been written about these dolls and their experience as they have come back into the public awareness since the 1980’s.

B 43 Miss Wakayama by Hirata Goyo II

Miss Wakayama by Hirata Goyo II

They are each 32″ tall, dressed in exquisite furisode (long sleeved formal kimono), and were accompanied with stands, accoutrements, accessories, a passport, and a ship ticket.

B 45 Miss Fukuoka Full Dogu

Miss Fukuoka/Gunma Full Dogu

These highly artistically rendered dolls are the starting point of the Japanese Art Doll Movement. 45 of the original 58 dolls are now accounted for, though they are not all identified correctly, as their stands and accessories were mixed up in their early touring of the United States. Miss Fukuoka/Gunma resides at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in Eugene, Oregon. Please click on the link below in “For More Information” to experience Alan Scott Pate’s 2014 lecture (69 minutes) on the Japanese Friendship Dolls at the Schnitzer Museum

B 46 BJD female

BJD girl

BJD Dolls: No overview of Japanese dolls can be complete without a mention of the wildly popular among young people today, BJD (ball jointed dolls).

B 47 BJD male nude

BJD nude male

The Volks company is one of the outstanding creators of these highly detailed dolls, often with the popular Japanese “anime” look.

~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

Ningyo of Japan serve significant cultural roles as ritual, guardian, and votive objects, as art for admiration, and as entertainment and toys for adults and children. Though dolls of Japan have been collectible as art in the west since the late 19th century, collectors of antique dolls are just beginning to discover the beautiful, “kawaii” ningyo. Kirei desu ne!

B 48 Dreamland by Charles Deter Weldon

Dreamland by Charles Deter Weldon circa 1883

 

For More Information:

Kaonis, Donna. “A Visit with the Herrings.” (Japanese Dolls) Antique Doll Collector, October 2015.

Kita, Terry. The Sun Shines For Us All: The Friendship Dolls From Japan. Valparaiso, IN: Valparaiso University, 2015.

Pate, Alan Scott. “Good, Better, Best: Evaluating Japanese Ichimatsu Dolls.” Antique Doll Collector, March 2017.

Pate, Alan Scott. “Courtesans and Heroines: Japanese Fashion Dolls from the 18th Century.” Doll News, Summer 2019.

Pate, Alan Scott. Japanese Dolls: The Fascinating World of Ningyo. Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, 2008.

Pate, Alan Scott. Lecture: Japanese Friendship Dolls. Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, February 4, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBNGH2mno5A

Pate, Alan Scott. Ningyo: The Art of the Japanese Doll. Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, 2005.

Stern, Itsuke and Anthony. “Wonderful Japanese Kokeshi Dolls.” Doll News, Winter 2015.

Stewart, Jennifer Anne. “Beyond Oceans and Decades: In Search of Ningyo.” Blog Post: https://quintessentialantiquedolls.wordpress.com/2018/01/27/beyond-oceans-and-decades-in-search-of-ningyo/

Make Japanese paper dolls: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=in38zVtiiZI

Ningyo: An Overview of Japanese Dolls, Part 3

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Author’s Kimekome ningyo, made on Okinawa in 1986 with the help of my Sensei

Display Dolls

To quote Alan Scott Pate, “In many countries dolls are closely associated with children and playtime.  In contrast, a significant part of Japan’s doll culture involves dolls made specifically for adults and designed for display rather than for play.”

B 22 Saga Ningyo mother with child side view 18th c.

Saga Ningyo mother with child side view 18th century. (Image from antiquejapanesedolls.com)

Saga-ningyo, the most refined aesthetics of Edo ningyo: Saga-ningyo are the rarest and most sought after antique dolls in Japan, rarely represented in foreign collections.  The base is carved wood with the head, and often the hands, formed separately. Clothing is formed with a sophisticated technique of applying lacquered colors.

B 22 X Antique large Doji Ningyo, Photo credit Alan Pate

Antique large Doji Ningyo (Image from antiquejapanesedolls.com)

Many styles of Saga-ningyo were created; however, the most sought after are the “doji” style of a kneeling boy acolyte often holding an animal such as a dog or a bird.

 

Gosho-ningyo (Palace Dolls), A Celebration of Youth: Gosho-ningyo are closely associated with the imperial culture of the 18th century. They were gifts that conveyed auspicious wishes within the imperial family, and to visitors in recognition of tributes to the emperor.

B 23 Japanese Kofuku-no-inori gosho ningyo c. 1820 Edo

Japanese Kofuku-no-inori gosho ningyo c. 1820 Edo

The Gosho dolls are noted for representing rotund boy children, often wearing a haragake bib, and often in parody of popular culture. Their format of one-third proportions and white spherical elements echoes Buddhist ideals. Gosho-ningyo are made of clay or wood or composition covered with gofun (oyster-shell paste).

 

B 25 Iki Ningyo fisherman attacked by kappa water demon

Iki Ningyo: Fisherman attacked by kappa water demon

Iki-ningyo:  Literally “living dolls.” In the Edo era they were used by various traveling performers and at temple fairs. Their realism and the content of the display were often violent and shocking.

B 26 Isho ningyo modern depicting early 20th c. by Yuki Atae

Isho ningyo: Modern, depicting early 20th c. by Yuki Atae

Or, in modern examples, they may portray common life of an earlier time.

 

B 27 Kimekome ningyo

Kimekome doll showing the paolownia base, and the completed doll

Kimekome: This is a traditional method for crafting dolls starting with a base carved of Paolownia wood. The garments are made by gluing padded fabric to the base and tucking it into the seams cut in the wood. Hina and Musha ningyo can be made of Kimekome, and kits are available for crafters to complete.

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Kimekome doll completed by the author on Okinawa, 1985.

 

B 28 Isho ningyo two geisha musicians pre 1900

Isho ningyo: Two geisha musicians, pre 1900

Isho-ningyo: Fashion Dolls and Popular Culture of the Edo period. “Isho” means fashion or clothing. Usually standing, these dolls are mounted on a lacquered base. They depict every imaginable topic from kimono fashion, to hit plays on the Kabuki stage, Seven Gods of Good Fortune, and they overlap with musha ningyo, warriors from the past (as seen in Part 1 of Ningyo).

B 29 Traveler to Kyoto Costume Doll Circa Edo Period

Traveler to Kyoto Costume Doll, Circa Edo Period

Textiles are the main focus for isho-ningyo, and Japan’s weaving technology in silk brocades, silk and cotton velvets, gauze, hemp, and satin, can be found in the costumes of these dolls. Alan Pate’s latest article in Doll News, Summer 2019, focuses on this doll form. He aptly notes, “[Isho-ningyo] represent a uniquely Japanese form of doll–one infused with all the beauty and mastery of refined doll art, but additionally layered in history, lore and social values. They are fabulous windows to a long-ago world, but one that comes to life again when one gazes at the lustrous white gofun faces, admires the rich silken brocades, and ponders reflectively the stories they tell.”

 

B 30 Kokeshi

Kokeshi

Kokeshi Cylindrical Wooden Dolls, or “Poppy-seed Child”:  These primitive style lathe turned wooden dolls originated in the cold north of Japan in the hot-springs area of Tohoku, and were made as souvenirs. They could also be used as offerings to gods, possibly depicting children who have died.

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Author’s kokeshi with okappa hairstyle in the made-for-tourist tradition. Purchased in Japan c. 1989.

Kokeshi are a popular souvenir for tourists to Japan, with the export dolls often having an added okappa hairstyle.

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Author’s toy kokeshi,  purchased second-hand in Tokyo, c. 1989

B 31 Kamo Ningyo trio mid 1800's

Kamo Ningyo trio mid 1800’s

Kamo-ningyo: Most likely originating in the mid-18th century, these are small (about 3″) wooden dolls inspired by the daily life in Kyoto. They have applied textiles and minimalist facial features. While little known to the outside world, they are one of the most collected of early dolls in Japan.

 

B 32 Hakata

Hakata-ningyo:  These are clay figures which blur the lines between doll and sculpture. Known for depicting elegant women, they are made exclusively on the southern island of Kyushu and centered in the town of Fukuoka, where the clay is easily available.

A 6 1985 2 July 14 Fukuoka Japan Hakata doll factory

Hakata-ningyo at the factory in Fukuoka, awaiting display in the showroom.  Note the unpainted male figures in the left background.  Photo by author, 1985

A 5 Hakata Factory brochure inside

Brochure from the Hakata Factory in Fukuoka Japan, 1985.  Again, male figures dominate.

Part 4 of Ningyo: An Overview of Japanese Dolls will continue with Dolls for Entertainment and Play, and with the Bibliography and For More Information.

 

 

 

Ningyo: An Overview of Japanese Dolls, Part 2

Antique 1900 photo Japanese boy and girl with Hina Matsuri display and Ichimasho doll

Notice the ichimatsu dolls on the right side by the boy in this circa 1900 photograph.

Ritual, Guardian, and Festival Ningyo

Hina-ningyo for Hina Matsuri (Girl’s Day or Peach Blossom Festival): Hina-ningyo, depicting the imperial court, are probably the best known to Westerners of all Japanese dolls. Hina Matsuri, celebrated on March 3rd, had its origin in the Heian Period (794-1192). It is a traditional custom to display ceremonial dolls on tiers of shelves covered with scarlet carpet. This is an auspicious day for purification, and parents celebrate their daughters’ happiness, growth, and good health.

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Dairi-bina (Imperial Couple) and Court Ladies from author’s Hina Matsuri Display. The Imperial Couple are about 3 1/2″ tall.

In the years 1000-1600, there is intermittent evidence that paper dolls were made to play with or to give as gifts on the third day of the third month, the festival associated with nagashi-bina purification rituals.

By the 17th century, the dolls were probably being made professionally using rich cloth instead of paper, with complex heads, but by the end of that century, commoners also made the dolls so that their daughters could celebrate the third day of the third month with doll play.

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Author’s Hinakazari (Hina Matsuri Display), purchased, already vintage, in Japan in 1989 and recently brought home from Connecticut to Oregon City.

Modern families often buy a new dairi-bina, or “imperial couple,” pair when the first daughter is born, adding to the display each year, while others pass down hinakazari (Hina display sets) from one generation to the next. In the past, it was common for new brides to take their set with them when they married. Many old  hinakazari still remain and hold importance to broader society as cultural treasures.

B 10 Tachi-bina pair Kyoto National Museum

Tachi-bina pair Kyoto National Museum

Tachi-bina (Standing Hina for Hina Matsuri): Tachi-bina can be made of paper at home. They are considered to be the earliest form of the dairi-bina displayed on Hina Matsuri. They represent a man (large, with outstretched protective arms) and a woman (smaller, armless), and are thought to echo the contrasting shapes of the amagatsu and hoko doll (shown below).  When made of paper or inexpensive materials, these ningyo are appropriate for the nagashi-bina purification ceremony, (also below) which is the ancestor of Hina Matsuri, in which dolls are touched or rubbed to absorb one’s sins, and then thrown into a river.  A single doll, used as a kind of proxy for the person being purified, is used for this ceremony in the Tale of Genji, (10th century classic Japanese literature) but modern nagashi-bina usually use pairs of dolls.

B 11 Hoko and Amagatsu pair

Hoko and Amagatsu pair

Hoko and Amagatsu (Talismanic forms to protect infants): The use of katashiro, or substitutes, in spiritual practice as stand-ins to take on the brunt of a person’s sins or misfortune played a role in the creation of hoko or crawling baby dolls. This is a guardian doll type, made by sewing a rectangle of cloth in such a way as to form four limbs, all of which point in the same direction. Hoko dolls have round stuffed heads, sometimes with long hair attached. They were traditionally given to pregnant women to protect the mother and unborn child. The dolls could be made for both boys and girls and were given to babies either at birth, or on special days shortly after birth. Boys’ dolls would be given up and “consecrated” at a shrine when boys turned fifteen, while girls would give up their dolls at marriage. Traditionally, hoko dolls were made of silk and human hair, and stuffed with cotton. Tiny hoko dolls remain a popular craft.

Amagatsu, or Heavenly Child doll, is mentioned in the Tale of Genji as a guardian doll for newborns, kept at all times with the child. The reference is thought to be to a cross-shaped figure, made by fixing wooden or bamboo rods in a T-shape to form a body and arms, with a cloth-covered head attached. The doll functioned as a kind of twin to the child, meant to distract evil spirits (meaning diseases) from its living counterpart. It would be burned when the child came of age.

B 12 Nagashi Bina

Nagashi Bina

Nagashi-bina is an event that involves dispelling impurities and misfortunes by floating dolls away on water. In earlier days this rite took place all over Japan, but the practice has died out in most areas. Only in Tottori City and Mochigase-cho in Tottori Prefecture does nagashi-bina survive today.

B 13 Nagashi-bina Festival in Mochigase-cho

Nagashi-bina Festival in Mochigase-cho

In this rite, dry straw is woven into a boat, which carries a pair of male and female dolls to be cast adrift in the river.

B 14 Koinobori Japanese Carp Wind Banner

Koi nobori

Musha-ningyo for Gogatsu no sekku or Tango no sekku, Boys’ Day: Boys’ Day (the fifth day of the fifth month) has a more complicated status than Hina Matsuri and does not require a doll display. The most important festive item is a banner or windsock in the shape of a carp (koi nobori), which is flown from a pole near the home; one fish is raised for each boy child. The carp is equated with virility because of the strength with which it swims upstream.

B 15 Musha-ningyo Warrior Dolls

Musha-ningyo Warrior Dolls

However, there are many dolls available to displayed on this day: Soldiers and great generals, legendary rulers, spiritual guides, and boy heroes with outrageous activities.

B 17 Daruma one eye painted

Daruma with one eye painted

Daruma dolls represent the Buddhist saint Daruma or Bodhidharma, who according to legend brought Zen enlightenment, and tea, to China and Japan. Legend has it that Daruma sat for years meditating, during which time his arms and legs atrophied, as well as his eyelids.

B 18 Daruma Vintage Gold-White Doll Japan

Daruma, Vintage Gold-White Doll, Japan

These Japanese dolls are paper-maché roly-polys which one buys with blank eyes so as to paint them in as one accomplishes some task (the first eye when one has formulated the goal, the second eye when it is achieved).

B 19 Daruma Burning

Daruma burning

Afterwards, Daruma are typically burned in a special ceremony. This custom may have originated as a thank-offering to the god for good Spring and Fall harvests; if he did not send a good harvest, he would remain blind or one-eyed. These dolls still perform a significant cultural function, and are purchased particularly at New Year’s, to assist in making resolutions.

B 20 Hagoita

Hagoita

Hagoita is not really a doll, but the padded images on it belong to the construction method of oshie-ningyo, or “padded-painting dolls.” Hagoita, like Daruma, are associated with the New Year. They are richly decorated game paddles, traditionally given as new year’s gifts to girls. The  game of hanetsuki is played with a feathered  large seed for a shuttlecock and a pair of hagoita. One side is painted, but the other side of the paddle is usually decorated with elaborate padded cloth faces of geisha or kabuki actors. As with Daruma, the old year’s paddles are supposed to be burned at the end of the year.

B 21 Okiagari Koboshi Pair

Okiagari Koboshi

Okiagari Koboshi can be translated as “priest who gets back up.” They are considered a lucky symbol of resilience. Traditional Japanese roly-poly toys date back as far as the14th century.

. . .

In Part 3 of this presentation on ningyo, Dolls for Display will be on focus.

Antique photo A Maiko with Hina Matsuri Dolls 1890s (2)

A Maiko (apprentice geisha) with large Hina Matsuri Dolls, 1890’s

 

 

 

 

Ningyo: An Overview of Japanese Dolls, Part 1

Japanese girl in kimono with Ichimatsu ningyo 1920

It is no wonder that Japan and its culture appear mysterious and exotic to Americans.  For over 220 years, the foreign policy of the Tokugawa Shogunate (the last feudal military government) barred nearly all foreigners from entering Japan, and the common people of Japan were barred from leaving the country. In 1853, American ships commanded by Matthew Perry forced the opening of Japan to American and Western trade.

Commodore Perry Dolls brought from Japan in 1852

Japanese dolls (three fold or Mitsuori) given as gifts to Commodore Perry in Japan, 1853

From the first trade negotiations, Perry brought back a pair of Japanese mitsuori dolls. However, a Japanese play doll had already made its way to Germany, perhaps by a Dutch trader in 1851, resulting in the German style of doll known as Motschmann or Taufling.

German Taufling papier mache circa 1851

German papier mache taufling, circa 1851

Japanese dolls, or Ningyo, have influenced western dolls since at least 1851, and perhaps earlier, as the thread doll form (keue saiku) were among the first ningyo introduced in the US in 1799 by American ships from Salem Massachusetts contracted to fulfill Dutch treaty obligations during the French Revolution period.

Thomas Nast Santa Claus with taufling-ichimatsu

Thomas Nast (German-born American) Santa Claus with taufling/ichimatsu doll.  Printed in  Harper’s Weekly 1881

Ningyo have fascinated Victorian Europe, and have continued to be mesmerizing souvenirs in America since more frequent contact with Japan after WWII. In order to understand the place of ningyo within Japanese culture, however, it is necessary to understand more about the culture of Japan.

torii-itsukushima-miyajima-big

Shinto is the native religion of Japan, though Buddhism, Taoism, and Christianity are widely practiced there now, as well. Shinto involves nature worship, meaning that natural phenomenon such as sun, wind, trees, mountains, and water are considered as divinities. Torii, the traditional Japanese gates, are so popular in Japan’s culture that they have come to be known in the western part of the world as one of the characterizing features of Japan. The Torii is a gateway that signals the transition from the profane to the sacred, and is usually located at the entrance to Shinto, as well as to Buddhist, shrines, though it is also used to mark an area believed to have a deep spiritual meaning.

Tanabata Star Festival

Tanabata Star Festival

There are five sacred or holy days in the Shinto tradition. These auspicious days are January 1 (New Year), March 3 (Hina Matsuri or Girl’s Day), May 5 (Tango no Sekku or Boy’s Day), July 7 (Tanabata or Star Festival), and September 9 (Choyo or Chrysanthemum Festival).

Shinto is also animistic, meaning to see life in what we consider to be lifeless things. Dolls, therefore, have a deeply ritualistic meaning in Japan because of their ability to be surrogate human beings. “Ningyo” means human form, while “doll” is typically defined as a small human figure used as a child’s toy.

Dogu

Dogu    The earliest recognizable dolls in Japan are prehistoric clay dogu figures, as old as 12000 BCE.

As ritual objects, ningyo are used as spirit vessels and votives for deities, as references to a particular person, child, infant, or unborn child, and can confuse malevolent forces, thus protecting children from danger and disease. Because of their sacred nature, ningyo are not merely disposed of; rather, they are given funerals at the end of their function with ceremonies concluding with burning the dolls or floating them away on water. (as we shall see . . .)

Just as western dolls are categorized in time periods usually corresponding to British ruling monarchs, ningyo are dated by Japanese imperial periods. In regard to antique ningyo, we are most concerned with Edo period through Showa period.

Periods of Japanese History

*  Early Japan (until 710)                                            *  Edo Period (1603-1868)

*  Nara and Heian Periods (710-1192)                      *  Meiji Period (1868-1912)

*  Kamakura Period (1192-1333)                                *  Taisho Period (1912-1926)

*  Muromachi Period (1338-1573)                              *  Showa Period (1926-1989)

*  Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1573-1603)                *  Heisei Period (1989-present)

Categories of Ningyo

Japanese dolls can be categorized by the materials they are made from, such as cloth, wood, clay, or paper. However, it is much more enlightening to get to know ningyo within their place and purpose in Japanese culture. Therefore, we shall explore the dolls as Ritual, Guardian, and Festival Ningyo; Display or Appreciation Ningyo; and Play and Entertainment Ningyo, though these categories are also not clear cut. For example, the Ambassador or Friendship dolls are ichimatsu ningyo; however, they are obviously not play dolls. Rather, they carry a significant ritual purpose as ambassadors of goodwill, and they are intended for display. Likewise, kokeshi originated as souvenir dolls for display, yet they also have ritual significance, and some kokeshi seem intended as play dolls, as we see with the mini wobble headed dolls from my collection.

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Author’s collection of miniature play kokeshi ningyo. The tallest doll is 4″.

In the next post, Part 2 of Ningyo: An Overview of Japanese Dolls, we will explore the first category listed above–Ritual, Guardian, and Festival Ningyo. (Bibliography will be listed at the end of Part 4.)

 

A Journey for Miss Ruby, Chapter Seven: A Connecticut Kind of Summer

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Everything about Ruby’s journey had been delightful! Yet, she couldn’t think of a better reason to travel than to visit family. Even though she was “born” in Connecticut, she was now a “West Coast” girl. How fortunate she was to have an “East Coast” clan to welcome her back! Ruby thought that Oregon City where she lives was incorporated a long time ago, in 1844 (as the first incorporated town west of the Rocky Mountains), but the town where she was staying, Colchester Connecticut, received its charter in 1698–almost 150 years before Oregon City. My, that is old!

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This house has been sold since this photo, and is no longer a shop. Miss Jennie wishes she was the buyer!

Of course many of the houses and buildings in Connecticut are older than in Oregon, too. Ruby liked looking at all of these old buildings.

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A historic Colchester house, facing the town green.

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This interesting Victorian is near the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam.

August 2014 18 Airline Trail bigger stone wall 5 conjunction

Connecticut is also noted for its beautiful stone fences; even like this one that is unused and hidden away now along Judd Creek.

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After shopping for awhile, Ruby stopped for a rest on this stone wall in Old Mystic Village.

Shopping is always interesting in Connecticut. Everyone likes stopping at Nature’s Art along the way to Old Mystic Village.

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Ruby was quite taken with this large malachite stone. She found that it soothed her spirit.

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“This room with dinosaur skeletons is a little bit scarry–it gives me the shivers. But I still like the fish.”

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“What do you mean, we already have Citrine at home? I want to put THESE in my suitcase!”

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Harry’s Place doesn’t look quite like this any more, but it’s still THE place to hang out on summer evenings in Colchester! (Photo by Dave Stewart)

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Burgers, chili dogs, and onion rings were the favorites with all of these Stewart girls. (Photo by Dave Stewart)

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And of course ice cream for the whole family is the perfect ending for a summer evening. Coneheads had Miss Jennie’s favorite–espresso bean! (Photo by Dave Stewart)

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Ruby liked dressing up in her white summer dress for church in Manchester.

Even this delightful journey eventually came to an end. The dolls in her bedroom were beginning to miss Ruby most dreadfully. When she came home, she petted the housecats, then she sat on the little Windsor chair next to Little Davie. Now all the bedroom dolls could sit or stand for days and days listening to Ruby share story after story about her journey to the East Coast.

THE END . . . is just another beginning!

Red dress girl with flag circa 1850s

East or West, Home is Best

 

 

 

A Journey for Miss Ruby, Chapter Four: Tall Ships on Casco Bay

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Miss Ruby on board The Wendameen, July 5, 2018

After a busy morning seeing all the lighthouses, Ruby and her family rushed back to the hotel just in time to catch the shuttle bus to downtown Portland. The bus was definitely the way to get there because there would be nowhere to park the Salsa Red Pearl van. The bus driver was from Boston Massachusettes and now lives in Portland Maine. Miss Jennie told him the story about the coin flip to name the new (in 1845) Oregon town Boston or Portland. Then he said, “That is a fabulous story! I’m going to tell it to my friends!”

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“What do you mean I have to share!”

Once they were in Portland, there was plenty of time to have lunch at Flatbread Company, right beside the dock where the big ferry boats chugged in and out of the bay. The oven fired pizza was delicious, but Ruby liked her bottle of Maine Root Blueberry soda best of all.

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One of the ferry boats on Casco Bay

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Then they went out to the dock where the schooners were moored to get their boarding passes. Ruby was so excited about going on the ship, she could hardly be still in line. “I thought a schooner was a wagon that took people on the Oregon Trail to Oregon and California,” she said. Miss Jennie told her that she was right; Prairie Schooners did roll across the prairies on the Oregon Trail. Those wagons were smaller than the great Conestoga wagons, and with their white canvas covers or bonnets, they looked, from a distance, like smaller tall masted schooner ships, sailing across a sea of grasses.

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Timberwind (1931) in Casco Bay as seen from Wendameen, July 5, 2018

The Portland Schooner Company sails three tall masted schooners for two hour tours and charter trips. Ruby and her family would sail on Wendameen, the oldest of the three ships. “Goody, goody, I like old things,” said Ruby. Wendameen is a two-masted schooner, built in 1912 by the noted naval architect John G. Alden, and is 67 feet in length. She is the 21st recreational schooner built by Alden, and is one of the oldest to have survived. She sailed on the Great Lakes for 20 years, then languished on land until 1985 when she was fully restored and began her life of “windjamming” cruises in Maine. Wendameen was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.

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Wendameen (Stock Photo)

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Miss Ruby at the helm of Wendameen

When Ruby leaped on board Wendameen from the dock, she went right to the helm. “Can I steer?” Then the captain came aboard and said to her, “What kind of voodoo is this?” Ruby just looked at him with big eyes and said, “No voodoo, sir. I’m just Miss Jennie’s travel companion.” That seemed to satisfy the captain, and he paid her no more mind on the cruise.

They followed Bagheera as Wendameen’s motor pushed them away from the dock. Then they were in the bay and the sails were unfurled by the two-woman crew. What a lovely evening to be out on the water on a tall masted ship!

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Portland skyline from Wendameen on Casco Bay

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Miss Jennie especially loved being on this historic tall ship, and sailing! (Photo by Dave Stewart)

There were lots of things to see out on the bay. There was a Civil War fort named “Fort Gorges” that is on an island, and they could see the other two schooners, Timberwind and Bagheera, sailing around the bay. Ruby looked and looked at the varnished wood, tall masts, sails, and rigging, on the ship she was on. She was amazed at how the crew members climbed right onto the mast to adjust the sail! “I want to do that!” she said. “Can I have a schooner for my birthday?”

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Octagonal shaped Fort Gorges, finished in 1864. No troops were ever stationed there because it was obsolete before it was completed, being replaced by iron clad ships and long-range guns.

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Bagheera (1924), as seen from Wendameen

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Spring Point Ledge Light as seen from Wendameen

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The captain and one of two crew members aboard Wendameen, July 5, 2018 (Photo by Dave Stewart)

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Mast and rigging, Wendameen

Ruby was sad as the sun sank lower and Wendameen followed Bagheera back toward the dock. She thought she could sail aboard a tall ship for days and days. This had certainly been an experience that she would remember for all of her life.

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When Ruby was home again, she took out her copy of Avi’s The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, which is a Newbery Honor high adventure story about a tall masted ship and a 19th century girl who sailed on her. This helped keep Ruby’s sailing adventure alive for her.

This beautiful Thursday evening had been the perfect time for Ruby’s sailing adventure. Now it was time for dinner (grilled scallops! Yum!) and another cozy night at the hotel. The morning would bring rain–the perfect day for shopping!

To be continued . . .

Nautical girl antique print

So much to sea!