Dolls of Japan/Nihon no ningyo desu

Different types of collectable dolls produced in Japan

By Elena Lisina    - 3 min read

I’m a doll collector and Japan is a very special country in that aspect. A great variety of dolls are produced in Japan and each type has deep traditions. Every region produces its own special type like ceramic dolls of Hakata, wooden Kokeshi dolls of Miyagi Prefecture, Gosho and Maiko dolls of Kyoto and etc. The difference from other countries is that most of Japanese dolls are not playthings, but decorations for display.

When I learned about Japanese dolls via different publications, I was sure I could find dolls anywhere in Japan. But, when I visited Japan for the first time, I found that it wasn't so. I had to look for them and to learn more! Souvenir shops mostly carry souvenir dolls, but not the traditional type or older dolls that are more valuable for collectors.

I found some really good older dolls in antique shops in small towns like Toro (near Omiya) and Nikko. For traditional Kokeshi dolls, I travelled to Shiroishi-Zao. There you can find great choice of Kokeshi dolls from local artists, each piece with the artist's signature on the bottom, and the prices are very reasonable. Besides, you can visit artists' workshops and watch the process of making a Kokeshi doll.

Oshie technic, flat dolls made of cardboard covered with old kimono fabrics, used to be a very popular craft in the past, but now it's rare. You can still find very good samples in the ‘Belami Doll Shop’ of Matsumoto (3-7-23, Chuo). The Mimura Family has been running that studio shop since the 1950's. They also produce traditional paper dolls like Anesama and Tanabata. Also, you can visit some flea markets and small shops in Kawagoe. That is where I found really good Ichimatsu dolls.

What I find remarkable is even if you buy a souvenir doll in Japan, it's sure Japanese and not "Made in China"! The exception is anime figurines made of plastic. They represent anime characters, but mostly are produced in China or Korea. A great variety of anime characters could be found in Akihabara shops. I recommend buyers to search in the private section for more reasonable prices.

The main materials of Japanese dolls are: wood, paper, ceramics, clay, composition material (the mixture of clay and wood dust) and silk.

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Elena Lisina

Elena Lisina @shiroi.tenshi

I love Japan very much! I like small towns of Japan where I can watch people doing their business and talk to them carefully. They're always friendly. I like Japanese gardens where I can just sit or walk and take my time. Also I like Shinto Jinja as being there I feel in peace. I like to watch sunsets and then to dine in some small local places. I like to soak into onsen after a long day of wandering. I like Japanese crafts very much as all items are made with great taste and skill. Nihon wo daisuki desuyo! My photos from Japan I also place here: Matane!

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Elena Lisina Author 3 years ago
Questions on Japanese dolls are welcome!