An introduction to the beauty and history of Japanese dolls
Even to this day in Japan, dolls are not only considered objects of decoration or entertainment, but living creatures as well. An expression of such special behavior is found in the ceremonies of Doll Burial. When the doll's owner must reluctantly throw it away, he takes it to a temple where old and new dolls, both costly and ordinary ones, are piled together. After the owners say their last farewell and express their deep gratitude, the dolls are burnt to ashes.
The Hina Ningyo Dolls are found in many varieties but two main types are distinguished. The first group of dolls is called Kyohina. They are popular in the region around Kyoto, the old capital city of Japan. The other group of dolls is called Edohina and is characteristic of the region around Tokyo, the capital city of Japan.
Kyohina Emperor doll.
As the old legend tells in the 4th century the Empress joined the Emperor on the road to the battlefield. At some point during their travels they stopped at a mineral spring on the island of Shikoku, where the Empress became pregnant. She nonetheless took part in the battle and gave birth to a child.
The Himedarma Doll wrapped in red diapers, represents the child who eventually became the fifteenth Emperor of Japan. In Japan there exists a belief that if a maiden is granted the Himedarma Doll she will marry within two years.
To accentuate the doll's elegant silhouette, narrow grooves are carved into the body which allow the cloth of the dress to be precisely tucked in and around the body. This technique is called Kimekomi which means "tucked." Originally, these dolls were carved from the soft wood from the willow tree.
Daruma [or Dharma] Dolls
Daruma is a traditional, hollow paper doll, which is an abstract representation of Bodhidharma, the Indian founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism. The doll is traditionally shown seated in meditation pose, and with the exception of huge eyes, and sketchy beard, the doll's whole body is typically colored red.
Daruma dolls symbolize perseverence. In spite of its round shape and wobbly appearance, the doll’s heavier lower-half keeps it stable and upright. It therefore embodies the idea that even if you fall, it is important to get up and try again because the next time you will certainly succeed.
Daruma dolls are popular good luck symbols and are often given as gifts to encourage the owner to on to success.
Initially, the doll’s eyes are not drawn in, but left as empty white spots. When one wishes for something or decides to pursue a new aim, she draws in left eye, and if the aim is achieved or the dream realized, she also draws the right eye. Whether Dharma will begin to see depends on one’s own efforts to realize her aim.
In the past, when a boy was born to a samurai family, Tango No Sekku was celebrated as a tradition.
On the occasion of Tango No Sekku Festival or Boys' Festival wishes for health and success of the family sons and well-being of the whole family are being sent. All family members celebrate together to strengthen the spiritual links between them and turn this day into an unforgettable memory. On this day the dishes of chimaki (sweet rice cakes wrapped in bamboo leaf) and kashiwa mochi (sweet rice balls wrapped in oak leaves are eaten. Oak leaves in Japan are traditional symbols of strength and endurance. The custom of eating chimaki had its beginning in the Heian period.
In the Edo period (17th-19th century) the Tango no Sekku tradition was highly respected. In front of the entrance of the samurai home weapons, helmets and flags were arranged. In the middle of that period, people decorated their courtyards instead with Koi-Nabori (fish banners and windsocks) that fly overhead. A decoration of a school of carp (gold fish) - a traditional symbol of military courage - would appear to drift in the sky overhead, as if moving in a clear stream of water. This view is frequently seen in Japan in May.
Carp (koi) are a fish which demonstrates a strong will to live, inhabiting both clear and turbid (muddy) waters. They swim against strong currents, and are considered a very courageous animal. Koi, therefore, came to personify the hope that a male child overcomes difficulties, grows to be physically and mentally strong, and capable of taking full responsibility for his own actions.
By decorating their home with Koi-Nabori the family utters up a prayer to the gods to protect its boy. Yaguruma, a wheel with a ball rotated by the wind, is put on the top of the stick above the carps. The wheel symbolizes courage, and the ball represents a vessel to be filled with luck and happiness. A family of carps drifting in the sky expanse, which can be resembled to clear water, is a view frequently seen in Japan in May.
By decorating their home with Kodomo Taisho - the samurai doll shown here - the Japanese express the wish that a male child becomes a good man. Created around 1980, this doll has a relatively brief and new history.
On the occasion of Tango No Sekku Festival wishes for health and success of the family sons and well-being of the whole family are being sent. All family members celebrate together to strengthen the spiritual links between them and turn this day into an unforgettable memory.
About the History of the Exhibit
This exhibition has been established due to the cooperation between Regional museum of history, Plovdiv and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) , which dates back to 1999. In the beginning of 2004 we welcomed Yuko Nakajima and during one of our first talks she revealed us the magic of the Japanese doll, which uniquely represents the life in the distant country. Fascinated by the marvelous photos we accepted the proposal to set up an exhibition with Japanese dolls hoping to get at least ten original exhibits. Yuko sent an appeal for support to her friends from the Saitama Prefecture, which is found to the north of the capital of Tokyo. Marutake Dolls Company and the International Cooperation Association in Saitama responded to the appeal and set up a community called ”Let's Send Dolls to Bulgaria". The secured free grant needed transportation for which we got support under the JICA Program: “For Smiles All Over the World”. The shipment arrived in July 2005 – six cases with total weight of 430 kg. These dolls you see now at the exhibition which we called The Soul of the Japanese Doll. This exhibition has been realized in 2010 as per artistic design by Konstantin Kambarev with the financial support of the Embassy of Japan in Bulgaria. We say our thanks to Yuko Nakajima, to our Japanese friends for the wonderful gesture and to His Excellency Tsuneharu Takeda, ambassador of Japan in Bulgaria.
Google Cultural Institute Presentation:
Plamen Chetelyazov - PR
Yuko Nakajima - JICA Volunteer
Marutake Dolls Company - Contributor
International Cooperation Association in Saitama - Contributor
Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) - Contributor
Embassy of Japan in Bulgaria - Contributor