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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Explore Singapore, Colours and Heritage exhibit opening

Museo Pambata , Roxas Boulevard cor. South Drive, Manila-Philippines

facade of Museo Pambata

  It was cloudy day , When i arrived at around past 8:00 am at the Museo Pambata lobby . Museo Pambata is the country’s first fully dedicated museum for children . I have went several times to this museum and being a member of Heritage Conservation Society ( office is located at the back-side of the museum ) always makes me feel like the place is like a second home. I was greeted by the friendly receptionists and staffs of the museum .

Museo Pambata reception committee members

I am one of the privilege “few” member of the philatelic community in the country to get an exclusive invitation to the event. As a writer , blogger , travel guide and collector ,  The exhibit  plays an important role  that is closes  in my heart which is “philately ” or stamp collecting .

lion dancers delighted visitors and guests to the museum

group of school children and teachers were delighted by lion dancers performance

Dr. Nina Lim-Yuson CEO and president of Museo Pambata address the crowd

Dr. Nina Lim-Yuson, President & CEO of Museo Pambata said, “Museo Pambata is honored to have been chosen by the Singapore Philatelic Museum for this exhibit, “Explore Singapore!”. SPM and MP have much in common, not only in the close relationship that we have forged with their professional staff, but also with both museums’ target audience, which is young children. SPM has many attractive and excellent exhibits, but one of our favorites is their Singapore Heritage Room. How fortunate that this room was replicated in our museum, and now our Filipino kids can learn about and pretend they are in Singapore! Thank you SPM and Mabuhay to our partnership.”

Dr. Nina Lim-Yuson received a token gift from his excellency Ambassador Mr. V.P. Hirubalan of Singapore to the Philippines

Mayor Alfredo S. Lim

group picture of the organizers  Dr. Nina Lim-Yuson -CEO and president of Museo Pambata , Mayor Alfredo S. Lim- chairperson of Museo Pambata  ( 4th from the left), Singapore Philatelic Museum General Manager Tresnawati Prihadi and Ambassador V.P. Hirubalan

Mayor Alfredo S. Lim together with Honorable V. P. Hirubalan and Mrs. Hirubalan

Mr. Robert Tan- President of Philippine Philatelic Federation and Dr. Nina Lim-Yuson -CEO and president of  Museo Pambata

members of the Quezon Philatelic Society led by their President Mr. Stanley Siu ( standing 6th from the left standing beside Mayor Alfredo S. Lim )

The exhibit is divided into 6 themes:

sample of traditional costumes from Singapore 

The People of Singapore : authentic traditional costumes of Chinese , Indians, Malays , Indonesians and Peranakans  are exhibited . Early photographs of the immigrants and their way of life .

Replica of authentic commercial district are re-created.

Ketupat– a traditional boiled rice skillfully wrapped in coconut leaves,  empty ketupat made of colorful ribbons are commonly used to decorate homes during festive season.

Festivals: Christmas, Chinese New Year, Easter ,  Hari Raya Puasa, Pongal  and Deepavali are given a more tangible form through an interactive cabinet display. People can see the items on display from nativity scenes, pottery , shoes , pictures, eater eggs among others.

Food: Singapore is known for its food culture,  street hawkers and their tasty delicacies.  This  exhibit gives greater depth into the origins of iconic dishes such as Wonton noodles, Kway Chop , Satay, Hainanese Chicken Rice ,  Ice Kacang ,Katong laksa , Bak Chang , Rojak among others.

replica of Chinese traditional drug store in Singapore 

Vanishing Trade:  With the rapid modernization and industrialization of the country most of the traditional arts, crafts , agriculture are slowly vanishing in popularity. Among the items shown here are items that represent aspects of clog making, spice manufacture and a Chinese apothecary.

traditional kites

Traditional Kites : Different  kites  designs ranging  from dragon, butterflies  , dragon flies  are hung on the ceiling of Museo Pambata . Kite flying is believed to have been brought to Singapore by the Chinese settlers and have been popular with the kids and even adults.

Journey Through Singapore With Stamps ( Tourism ) :  In cooperation with   Singapore Philatelic Museum which  features various key historic sites and famous attractions in Singapore that are featured in their local stamps.

presentation folder of Garden by the Bay stamps

Spanning 101 hectares, Gardens by the Bay is an integral part of a strategy by the Singapore government to transform Singapore from a ‘Garden City’ to a ‘City in a Garden’. The stated aim is to raise the quality of life by enhancing greenery and flora in the city.


Singapore’s development into a garden city started four decades ago with the establishment of greening program. This was initiated with the launch of the Tree planting campaign in 1963.

Some of the newest issue included 2012 Olympic stamps and first  day cover , Flora and Fauna , Historical places.   Singapore stamps are highly collectible and sought after by stamp collectors from all over the world.

Singapore Post issued a set of four stamps to commemorate Games of the XXX Olympiad London 2012. The Olympic stamps features Table Tennis – 1st Local, Swimming – S$0.65, Sailing – S$1.10 and Badminton – S$2.00.

Singapore -Philippines joint issue of bridge in 2009 ( 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations)

Date of Issue: 28 August 2009
Denominations: 1st local, 65¢, 80¢ & $1. 10
Stamp Size: 40.8mm x 29.85mm
Miniature Sheet: 120mm x 75mm
Perforation: 13
Paper: Unwatermarked
Printing Process: Offset Lithography
Printer: Secura (Singapore) Pte Ltd Sheet Content: 10 stamps per sheet
Designer: Victorino Z. Serevo
Graphic Designer: Chan Willie

After the ceremonies, guests and vips were treated to an array of Singapore dishes .  I would like to personally thank all the staffs and curator of Museo Pambata. The roving exhibit which will run until August 2013 .

Admission Hours

8 AM to 5 PM (Tuesdays to Saturdays)
1 PM to 5 PM (Sunday)

Admission Fees
Php 100 (for children and adults)
Museum workers and teachers – FREE

Manila residents with valid IDs – FREE on Tuesdays and 50% discount on other days.

The museum is closed on Mondays and selected official holidays.

 Land-line : 523-1797 to 98 and 536-0595


Embassy of the Republic of Singapore – Manila


Ministry of information , Communication  and the Arts : www.mica.gov.sg/

Museo Pambata : http://www.museopambata.org/

National Heritage Board : www.nhb.gov.sg/

Singapore Philatelic Museum : http://www.spm.org.sg/

Singapore Post: http://www.singpost.com/

Explore Singapore ! Colors of Heritage Exhibit

Museo Pambata in cooperation with Singapore embassy , Singapore Philatelic Museum , National Heritage Board , Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts , City of Manila invites everyone to a year-long festival known as ” Explore Singapore ! Colors of Heritage Exhibit “.

The original schedule of the exhibit was supposed to be held on August 8, 2012 however due to strong rains caused by southwest monsoon the schedule was moved to September 5, 2012 and will run until September 5, 2013 .

Guests of Honor includes Honorable Alfredo S. Lim , Singapore ambassador to the Philippines , Ms, Gretchen del Rosario , Mr. Robert Tan , Mrs. Maria Josefina Dela Cruz .

For more information :

Landlines : 523-1797, 523-17-98 , 536-05-95

Email: info@museopambata.org

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