By Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory
Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory
Fushimi dolls are clay figurines that were first made in the Fushimi area from the end of the Momoyama (1573-1615) to Edo (1615-1868) periods. There are various theories about their origin, but they are believed to have been first made using the clay soil of Mt. Inari near the Fushimi Inari Shrine, and sold and carried all over the country as talisman. They gave birth to the sayings like “If broken, children’s diseases will be healed,” and “If the pieces are sown in the fields, they will ensure a good harvest and stave off pests.” There were about 20 kilns that specialized in their production in Meiji period (1868-1912), but during the Shōwa era (1926-1989) they continued to close until there are only a few remaining at present.
Fushimi, Miyako meisho zue ©Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University (1780) by Akisato Rito and Takehara Shunchosai Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory
variety of Fushimi dolls
Fushimi figurines are created in a variety of subjects. Originally, they were viewed as everyday objects and children’s toys often possessing religious or spiritual meanings by providing moral instruction, representing characters from legend or folklore, Shintō deities, and so forth.
The figurines are molded with clay, fired in a kiln, and then decorated with white chalk pigment (gofun) and colored mineral pigments. They are created during one-year cycles. At present the traditional methods of production remain constant, except for the replacement of the fire-burning kilns with electric kilns due to environmental considerations.
Molds of Fushimi dolls (2017)Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory
~ Summer: Production of unglazed bisque (1)
Clay is filled into molds, creating two pieces of front and back or top and bottom before joined into one completed shape. There are about 2000 known types of molds. Many types of molds have been used since the Edo period (1615-1868) and often convey traditional customs and historical legends.
~ Summer: Production of unglazed bisque (２)
After drying for a few days time out in the sun, they is fired in a kiln for about 10 hours at a temperature above 900 ℃。
Winter: Coloring (1)
First a basecoat is applied with a brush covering the entire figurine with white chalk pigment (gofun).
Seven auspicious things of Mt. Fuji
This popular motif is created by combining seven auspicious things that include the syllable of “fu.” Starting with the “fu” of Mt. Fuji, it also includes the Wedded Rocks of Futamigaura, the Treasure Ship (Takara-fune), a weight for currency (fundō), a brush (fude), a treasure bag (fukuro), and a box to store letters (fubako).
Winter: Coloring (２)
The figurines are then painted with a mixture of color pigment and glue. Larger areas of color are painted first, followed by smaller areas of details. The pigment and glue mixture is warmed during application to prevent hardening, carefully applying each color one by one until complete.
Naritaya kabuki dolls celebrate the most famous lineage of stage actors of the house Naritaya founded by Ichikawa Danjūrō and their signature stage roles that make up “The Kabuki Eighteen.” Ichikawa Danjūrō VII (1791-1859) established these eighteen dramatic characters during the Tenpō era (1830-1844) upon his return to the Edo stage from his tour in Kansai.
The fox is one of the most important motifs of Fushimi figurines due to its divine association with the Inari Fushimi Shrine. It is most commonly shown holding regalia like a sacred orb and carrying a scroll in its mouth, or with a precious jewel attached to its tail. They are often depicted in pairs used to flank the left and right sides of a household shrine.
Eating sweet buns
The figurine of a standing child holding two halves of a sweet bun in each hand represents a traditional moral anecdote. It is a visual play on the questioning of a child of whom they like best, their mother or father? The child responds by halving the sweet bun and retorting the question of which the questioner likes best?
The poet Saigyō
Saigyō was an actual historical person. His common name was Satō Norikiyo, and he was a samurai guarding the north gate of Emperor Toba’s palace. He renounced the material world and became a priest, traveling throughout Japan by foot creating many famous episodes. He was admired as a great poet and was often depicted as an itinerant monk with a wrapping cloth on his back. It is a visual representation of the moral teaching that even if you fall and break your neck you are steadfast and will not let go of the possessions on your back. It is considered a talisman to protect from burglary.
Hotei was a high priest from China during the Liang dynasty (502-587). He was known to have a big belly, and walked the streets with a large cloth bag stuffed with goods, predicting fortune and weather. Hotei is considered one of the celebrated Seven Lucky Gods and revered by the Japanese people. A common representation includes him holding a Chinese-style fan with big smile, which is believed to be a talisman to protect from fire. He is also believed to bring good fortune and virtues. His figurines come in many sizes as a custom developed to get larger and larger ones each year to increase auspiciousness.
Fushimi figurines include many zodiac animals and festival dolls. Some of the most popular include standing courtier dolls of the Doll Festival (Hinamatsuri), the demon Shōki of the bean-throwing festival (Setsubun), and the hero Kintoki of the Boy’s Festival (Gogatsu no sekku).
There are many variations on the theme of auspicious cats in Fushimi figurines.
Images provided by:
Text written by:
Yamamoto Masako (Ritsumeikan University)
Laura J Mueller
Exhibition created by:
Yamamoto Masako, Ritsumeikan University
Matsushita Chisora, Ritsumeikan University
Fujikawa Kaori, Ritsumeikan University
Kasai Takae, Kyoto Women's University
Yamamoto Masako, Ritsumeikan University