The Onnagata
"Geisha Dolls"
Oiran and Onnagata
Musume Dojoji
Dancing with the Spring Horse
Fuji Musume
Shiokumi: Legend, Play, Doll


A simple but mysterious subject: a young woman, very richly dressed, wearing a tall gold eboshi hat which ought to belong to a man, and carrying a pair of pails, painted with waves, on a yoke across her back. She is Shiokumi, a "salt-scooper" who carries seawater for the purpose of making salt. But why is she so elaborately dressed? Acccording to Sakura Dolls of Japan (Abston & Uchioke, 1963), she represents the daughter of a legendary lord of an inland region, who carried the salt in wartime. Another story is the one about the 9th-century sisters, two shiokumi, who had been loved by the poet-politician Arihara Yukihara during his exile in Suma but were left with only his cloak, his hat, and a poem when he returned to the capital; this tragic story is the subject of the Noh play Matsukaze which can be read online.

This sweet young lady is probably the dutiful Takeda daughter--her ingenuous face seems too youthful for Matzukaze. She evokes a child, not an actor in a role.  A small 20th-c. woodblock illustration strongly resembling the doll at right; does it represent a doll, a girl, or an actor...? 
In this 18th-century woodblock by Shunzan, it is a woman playing the role of Matsukaze, an amateur actress, an oiran (Yoshiwara courtesan) named Asa. The performance is a collaboration between kabuki actors and courtesans for the Niwaka Festival. For the story of the play and a commentary on this particular performance (and the woodblock), see John Fiorillo's page on Shunzan.  (Image above copyright John Fiorillo.) A hagoita (decorative padded battledore) which represents the Matsukaze story--note the salt bucket at the base of the image and the golden eboshi hat.
A silk scarf or furoshiki illustrating a Noh performance of the play Matzukaze. This scarf was made in 1958 for a United Nations cartographic conference in Tokyo (sorry for the peculiar scan--the original is quite large). Note the little wheeled cart in which the salt buckets are carried on stage. Two more dolls representing this story. The pottery doll suggests a kabuki or dance performance of matsukaze; the woman's robe is decorated with pine-tree motifs. The bamboo doll would not seem to represent a story at all--just a common worker--were it not for the golden cap, which reminds us of the heroines.