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Friendship dolls
Friendship doll links
Play dolls
Play doll links

This page was designed and is maintained 
by Judy Shoaf,
Please let me know if there is a link 
that is no longer valid, 
or one that you know of that should be added! 

The Japanese Doll 
on the Western Toyshelf
Essays and a catalogue of images
(postcards, advertisements,
books, photographs, etc).

More on Furisode and Yamato-ningyo (children in traditional costume)

 Japanish Dolls includes a color picture of a big baby from 1899 and a really ugly haihai doll probably from the 19th century, as well as a group picture of many ichimatsu.
 "Dakiningyo" --this site is in Japanese text, but shows the ancient forms of the amagatsu doll (a bamboo cross with a head) and the cloth hoko doll, which were made for children to protect them, as well as a modern ichimatsu with all accessories.
Rosalie Whyel's Museum of Doll Art --On the first page of the gallery, a charming 1920s boy Ichimatsu ningyo.

Japanese play dolls 
Dolls representing babies and children:

ichimatsu, daki, haihai
furisode, warabe

   Play dolls in traditional costume can be found in several shapes and sizes, from an inch or so to three feet tall. 
    Play with dolls is referred to in the Tale of Genji from the first century of this millenium, though the dolls in question seem to have been small adult dolls in "dollhouses." made by arranging screens and miniature furniture. Doll play is presented as appropriate for little girls.
    Historically, dolls were made to represent children in order to provide a distraction for any evil spirits that might wish to harm the child. Such dolls, probably constructed like a bamboo cross with a head attached, are also mentioned in the Tale of Genji, and another protective type of doll, the hoko (made from a stuffed square of silk, with a head added) was made up until the 20th century. One may still find variations of them (e.g. monkey dolls or saru-bobo, red in color). 
    Ningyo representing children or adults, jointed and ready to be dressed and undressed,  are depicted in woodcuts from the 18th century; They seem to have been treasured possessions of the girls and women of the "pleasure quarters." 
   Play dolls are called by several names: "Ichimatsu ningyo" from the name of a popular actor (he wore checked clothing because his name also meant "checked"), "Daki ningyo"  ("huggable doll") for a baby doll,  "Furisode ningyo" from the long-sleeved kimono worn by a little girl, or "Yamato ningyo" (truly Japanese doll)  to distinguish them from the blue-eyed babies imported from the West. A doll representing a child in a vignette of play (in a fixed position) might be called a "warabe ningyo" ("child doll") though that term could apply to many types of dolls.
    Baby dolls include also the "haihai" or crawling baby; these used to be naked but are now often elaborately clothed and hold rattles. There is also the "izumeko" doll, a baby tucked into a basket with a group of toys pinned to the cover to amuse him (he is usually a boy). If the basket is very deep and round, the baby's head poking out may make him look like a hina daruma, or daruma doll with a "princess"  face. (He may also look like a pincushion, but might not appreciate being used that way!) 
   Baby dolls with five-piece strung bodies and charming expressions are also often found in American antique shops; the oldest of these seem to date from the 1930s (most of them from 1945 or later), they and often have cry boxes in their tummies and "made in Japan" stickers indicating they were intended for export. 
    The most prized  play doll is the "mitsu-ore" (3-fold) type, which may be adult or child, a boy or a girl (antique or modern ones are often " anatomically correct"), usually jointed at knees and hips and perhaps the ankles as well so that it can be put into a kneeling position; the most elaborate ones are all wood, with hollow thighs to stabilize the kneeling position, but others have cloth joints.  The dolls are finished in gofun and dressed in several layers of clothes, sometimes with various accessories made to scale. Boy ningyo may have painted hair or wigs with a painted "shave"; girls have wigs, often with a pretty bun on top. 
    In the late 19th century dolls of this general type became very popular in the West, and were exported from Japan; often the construction was inferior, with cotton or paper clothing, hair that fell out, and paper joints,  but these dolls may have great charm. A wonderful example, with the history of the Japanese influence on European doll manufacturing, is a Study Doll at DollsDotCom. 

The Friendship Dolls

In 1926, 12,739 dolls (composition dolls with wigs and sleep eyes and ma-ma voices)were collected from American children and sent to Japan as a token of international friendship. In return, Japanese children contributed their candy-money to have 58 dolls made to be sent to the U.S. These Torei Ningyo (ambassador dolls) were of the type called Ichimatsu (after an 18th-c. actor) and also Furisode ningyo (representing little girls in traditional festival costume); they were 32" tall and elaborately dressed, and often came with their own furniture, tea-sets, and so on. During the war, many of these ningyo were hidden away or destroyed in both countries, though Miss Kagawa remained on display in Raleigh, North Carolina, with this notice: 

"The Japanese made an insane attack upon the American Territory of Hawaii on December 7, 1941.
      With a grim determination we now are committed to stop for all time Japanese agression. This has no bloodthirsty implications to destroy peoples as such. We still believe in peace, good-will, to live and let live.
    Men, women, and children of Japan have this good-will, but they have now been dominated by ruthless leaders. Proof of such latent good-will are the Friendship Doll Exhibits exchanged between children of the United States and Japan and shown as here in museums in both countries."
--Note: this seems to be the correct, full text of the notice. I used to have here a different, less "grim" one. The strong feelings do, however, emphasize the power of the Ambassador dolls to convey peace and love even in a time of fear and hatred.

In Japan, too, some people refused to "kill" the blue-eyed dolls from America, and there exists a photo from a school in Hokkaido of a 1942 Hina Matsuri celebration incorporating one of these dolls. 
     In the 1980s and 1990s there has been renewed interest in the two sets of dolls. More than 44 of the Japanese ningyo are known to have survived, some in public collections and a few in private hands, and more than 20 of them have visited Japan and received honors, repairs, new outfits or companions.


Friendship doll websites:


Bill Gordon of Wesleyan University has an extensive site with the history of the Friendship Doll program, excellent photos of many individual dolls, and bibliography. 
Miss Nagasaki, perhaps the most beautiful of the dolls.
Miss Shimane in Indianapolis.
Miss Miye photo and article.
 Picture of Miss Tottori (and her new friend Mr. Tottori!) at in Pierre, South Dakoat
 Miss Hyogo at the St. Joseph Museum, with her accessories and story.
The Misses Shimame and Toyama visit IUS  Miss Toyama belongs to the JB Speed Museum in Kentucky, and Miss Shimane is from the Children's Museum of Indianapolis.
Miss Fujiko Yamanashi Friendship Doll Collection at the Wyoming State Museum in Cheyenne. (Note: Miss Yamanashi was on loan to the Yokohama Doll Museum in Yokohama, Japan until Sept. 30, 1996.)
Miss Kagawa from Raleigh, North Carolina, has her own Japanese site, with photos of her American return in March 1999. Here is a translation of an article by Shoko Tsujimura about her and the original Friendship Doll Exchange.

A modern copy of a famous woodblock by
Hososda Eisho,  of the geisha Hinazaru, ca. 1780
Hinazaru's name is obviously referred to by the doll (hina) she holds, but it appears to be an ichimatsu type, representing the actor.