7 Mystical Stories Behind Japanese Doll Collecting

Japanese dolls are an ancient craft representing thousands of years of civilization. There were different kinds of dolls representing children, babies, some the imperial court, warriors, heroes, fairy-tale characters, gods and (rarely) demons, and also people of the daily life.

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doll made from folded paper

Some would traced its roots between 8000-200 BC period. There were between 10 to 15 types of traditional dolls depending on the authority. We have featured some kokeshi doll collectors in the country and the stories on how did they started collecting their Japanese dolls.

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Some are kept in Kyoto National Museum ,Peabody Essex Museum, Yodokō Guest House, Museo Pambata and Japanese Doll Museum by karljapz in Lipa, Batangas.

Japanese doll collections can be categorized by the material they are made of such as wood dolls kokeshi, kamo-ningyo and nara-ningyo, clay forms such as fushimi-ningyo, porcelain and among others.

7 Mystical Stories Behind Japanese Dolls Collecting

The rise of people collecting Japanese dolls started in the mid-19th century when Japanese started opening for trade in other countries. There are some Japanese doll aficionados who collect the doll for their artistic craftsmanship. Dolls were then send or bought by rich families and royalties who treasured and cherish the dolls from Japan.

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different kinds of doll including daruma made from folded paper, cloth and plastic

More dolls were brought home after the second world war by American service personnel and travelers from many parts of the world. In the country, the rise of Japanese doll collector were mainly attributed first to hundred of thousands of OFW in Japan  from late 1970’s to early part of this millennium.

Second is the rise of thrift stores in the country which propelled collectors to easily buy pre-loved dolls at a fraction of the cost in the native country.

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7.) Ichimachu dolls are posses by the people who formerly owned these dolls. Some people believe that during the Edo period, spirits of dead person who owned the doll may posses the doll.

6.) Some people believe that collecting the doll will bring prosperity and good luck.

5.) Daruma dolls bring good luck and are sold without eyes. The doll can be made from paper machie, wood, metal or even plastic and represents 6th monk as Bodhidharma who can from India or China to spread the Buddhism. It is customary to paint the eye with marker once you set a goal and fill the second one once who have fulfilled.

Daruma dolls are burned in a special ceremony in Shinto shrines or festival.

4.) Hina- Ningyo are traditional type of dolls displayed in family homes leading up to the Girls’ Day. They are sold in sets and represent an imperial court. Some people believe that collecting and completing the set will help them bring prosperity.

3.) Collecting kokeshi doll can be lucky or may also brings “bad luck”to individuals collecting the wooden doll. It is also widely believed that Kokeshi doll influence the development of Russian matryoshka dolls or nesting dolls.

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Kokeshi and Ainu wooden dolls on display

“kokeshi” was originally written in hiragana, and not from the Chinese syllable  “kanji”. The meanings of the combination of each phonetic syllable.

“ko” could mean two things; either “small”, or “child”. The word “keshi” could pertain to “poppy” or “doll”.

Another term “keshi”could also have been taken from the word “kesu”, which technically means to erase.

If one would definite the two words “child”, and “erase”, in which had its roots to infanticide, which sadly happen quite a bit among poverty stricken areas of Japan during the Edo period. Sometimes due to high infant mortality during the period, Each Kokeshi doll symbolizes 1 dead child.

It was then customary for parents that when a child passes away, they leave a kokeshi doll on the shrine inside the house to represent and honor the soul of the child who departed. Ms. Angelita Chua ( personal friend) collects some quirky kokeshi dolls made from marble or stone.

2.) Teru-Teru Bozu – These are dolls crafted by children and can influence weather. These are also quite rare to encounter at a local thrift stores since they are made from papers or fragile materials.

1.) Hina No Tsurushi Kazari, small handmade dolls which are passed on from mother to daughter to bring good luck. Since they are fragile very few handmade dolls can be seen for sale at the local thrift stores.

Amazing Array Collection in Quezon City ( Part 2)

The amazing husband and wife tandem had several types of collection. They were neatly arrange per category, like religious collection, kokeshi dolls, chess, elephant figurines among others.

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enamel wares

I featured the collection few months ago

kokeshi dolls

sea shells

frog

potteries

elephant figurines

elephant figurines

Bargain Sale or Sales Gimmik at TMRD Japanese Surplus

My two friends are always on a look out for some quirky items and kokeshi dolls. They would roam around Fairview, Novaliches in Quezon City and even up to North Caloocan just to purchase some of these pre-loved items, whenever they have some spare time.

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TMRD Japanese Surplus along Quirino Highway, Barangay Talipapa near Mindanao Avenue, Novaliches, Quezon City

There are a lot of these stores which carry items from Japan, South Korea or even United States. Demand for these items is growing because it had some cultural and collecting value. Although some people would advise them to be wary over these pre-loved items. Some might be posses by spirits by its former owners, Other would say that these might be the leftover items from Fukushima prefecture which can be highly radioactive.

There were at least a dozen known thrift stores along Quirino Highway, Novaliches which carry different items, some focuses more on clothes and shoes. TMRD is one of the bigger store which carries a wider selection of pre-loved items.

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pre-loved clothes and fashion items

I personally think that this is a cheaper alternative for my friends to spend some time shopping and hunting for these items. They are not the party type people and seldom goes out together with their families.

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sake cups, plates and ceramic wares for sale

My two friends already went to TMRD Japanese Surplus store several times to purchase some quirky items. The place is just one ride away from their house. The store is having their 4th anniversary sale which started late November and lasted until the end of December 31, 2018.

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set of kokeshi dolls bought by my friends

There was an in-house raffle promo which was valid until the second week of December 2018. A customer get a raffle stub for every Php 1,000 pesos single purchase. My friends were able to buy some small kokeshi dolls but only managed to pay Php 250 for a couple of small items which included small cups. They agreed to come back and invited me to join at their buying trip since they have seen some folders and postcards. They also took some photos of the other kokeshi dolls which caught their fancy and asked the sales personnel ( tindera) about their prices. Vowing to come back few days after.

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Kokeshi urban style – these two piece set was bought for just Php 70.00 a pair ( height about 5 inches or 13cm)

The first three dolls on the far left side was bought around December 10 at Php 130 or around $2.47 for all three items.

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vintage sosaku doll with unique features

vintage sosaku kokeshi doll -might have been created in the mid- 1970’s or 1980’s . It had two smaller kokeshi dolls which gave the illusion of eyes.

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This was the real bargain deal, They paid Php 60 or roughly $1.15 for this small wooden doll ( height about 4 inches or 10 cm).

Second Visit

We went to the store a few days after their last visit (December 12 Wednesday) around lunchtime. I started looking for some folders and postcards but the sales clerk told me that someone already bought the items. Much to the dismay of my two friends, when they found out that some of the kokeshi dolls they initially wanted. The prices had risen in just a matter of few days.

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This pair of kokeshi sosaku style wooden dolls were priced at Php 50 a pair during December 10, 2018 visit, but became Php 100 when we visited the store. ( unknown origin)

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Togatta kokeshi doll originally priced at Php 70.00 few days before, when the sales clerk told my friends that it was bargain at Php 150.00 (roughly $3.00) by the time we paid the cashier.

Togatta type kokeshi doll is 7 inches tall or 18 cm with signature at the bottom, by Kaiya Kichiemon (1905-1985) and probably made in the early 1970’s. The validation was thru the help of some kokeshi collectors like Mr. Henrick Stouten, Ms. Madelyn Molina and Ms. Nancy Togami who took time identifying the wooden doll.

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The small kokeshi with signature was originally priced at Php 20.00 but became Php 60.00 when we visited the store. The wooden kokeshi doll is by Obata, Toshio (birth 1932) a Tsuchiyu doll stands about 3. 75 inches or about 10 centimeters.

Tsuchiyu is an onsen within 30 to 40 minutes away from Fukushima prefecture. The doll is one of the 11 known traditional types of doll in Japan.

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small creative style kokeshi

This is the smallest kokeshi creative style which just stands 1.72 inches ( about 4.5 cm) by 1.75 inches height ( about 4.5 cm) with some chipped wooden hat due to age and handling.  This one was priced at Php 15 before but went up to Php 30 when we visited the store.

The group managed to haggle the price down for the two items from Php 60 to Php 30 and the small creative style kokeshi from Php 30 to Php 20.00. But for the other three kokeshi dolls, the sales clerk remain firm.  They paid Php 300 ( $5.70) for all these 5 items.

This makes us wonder why the store change their prices, We cannot help to tell the security guard and sales clerk that we notice the sudden change.  It was a bitter sweet deal that we got at the store.  If not of the sudden change, my friends could have paid Php 155.00.

 

 

 

 

 

Quirky and Fancy Kokeshi Dolls

There are a whole lot of quirky and fancy items that one can encounter when in search of collectible items.  A relative who collects kokeshi dolls had bought several item at this Japanese thrift store in Novaliches, Quezon City.

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kokeshi dolls for sale at the Japanese surplus/ thrift store

She was lucky that the 6 piece miniature tea cup set made from wood at the forefront display was also added by the thrift store owner as an added bonus to her purchase.

There was also a wooden doll hand painted wearing a Korean wedding hanbok. This type of wooden doll might have been influenced by the Japanese kokeshi doll and sold in souvenir shops in Korea. The thrift shop owner does not have a clue on the origin of the item.

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wooden head container and decor

While going  around the store, she was able to spot another wooden decor with an interesting spot to store some items.

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wooden container

The wooden lid also doubles as hat and can be opened from the side. Unfortunately, someone had already bought the item.

 

 

Interesting Shell Kokeshi Dolls

Kokeshi doll is another art form which is found in Japan. These are commonly sold at the tourist market are the creative styles which flourish right after the second world war.

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shell , wood are the medium used in this kokeshi

Omiyage Type

These are not the traditional styles nor creative style of kokeshi, but these types are considered  for the tourist market or (omiyage) type. Some experts do not accept that these are kokeshi. Most made from wood among other items like sea shells, plastics, fabrics which are less expensive alternative.

These omiyage types reach their popularity between 1960’s to mid-1980’s. These souvenir toys often have the name of the  tourist site (onsen) printed or written on them. Some may have the date, purchaser’s name, or location of purchase written on the bottom. Some Japanese treasured these toys, and displayed them in a small glass case. Omiyage are very collectible in Japan.

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shell kokeshi ( collection of Ms. Angelita Chua) – This used 4 kinds of sea shells

Sea shell which is commonly seen in coastal areas were also used in making of Kokeshi dolls, These are very popular souvenir items sold and caters to younger collectors.

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Collector

Ms. Angelita Chua is a kokeshi collector from San Jose del Monte , Bulacan . She started to collect quirky objects like kokeshi dolls way back in 2010. She would focus on the creative styles.

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pair of kokeshi doll used 2 kinds of sea shells

She have seen a lot of kokeshi dolls made from shells and nuts but most of them are in poor conditions. Some have missing shells , broken shells or missing parts.

Any information with regards to the origin of these kokeshi dolls made from shells will be highly appreciated.

Note: Due to lack of time , only few kokeshi dolls were featured. All photos are taken by the author with the permission of Ms. Angelita Chua.