This page was designed and is maintained
Traditional ningyo shapes
The strongly recognizable silhouettes of these dolls makes it possible to incorporate features of them into other doll types, or other media. The oval shape of Daruma may be given a girl's face and become a "princess Daruma," and this may evolve into its own art-doll format. Tachibina are often portrayed on scrolls and even dishes. Gosho modulate into children or even warriors, keeping their big heads, gentle expressions, and white skin. While classic kokeshi turned on a lathe are still extremely popular and collectible, variations abound--kokeshi heads on bathing, skiing, dancing figures!
The first ningyo I ever owned were a pair of Kokeshi dolls given me by my Aunt Sally and Uncle Jim, probably purchased in Seattle at the festival center which remains from the 1962 World's Fair.
The woodcut at right is "Memories of other times, Japan" by Paul Jacoulet (early 20th c. French artist). The tachibina pair clearly remind the old woman of her days as a bride, or perhaps as a girl dreaming of marriage. Scan compliments of Washington Antiques Center.
dolls, which consist of a lathe-turned joined wooden cylinder body
and sphere head, are still made, as they have been since ca. 1800. They
were made originally as souvenirs of the Tohoku hot-springs area, but also
as offerings to the gods.
There are a certain number of "classic" kokeshi styles, distinguished by experts through slight variations in shape, construction, and painting. The basic kokeshi idea, however, has been explored by artists in many ways, so that one finds nesting kokeshi, rounded neckless kokeshi, kokeshi with the addition of bamboo hair and sometimes kimono, and kokeshi positioned in little scenes of daily life or of legend. Thus these dolls can overlap with the Daruma or even hina figures.
the god Daruma or Dharma, son of the 28th Zen patriarch, who brought Zen
enlightenment, and tea, to China and Japan. There are many artistic representations
of Daruma as a monk or missionary, but the Japanese dolls are paper-maché
roly-polys, which one buys with blank eyes so as to paint them in as one
accomplishes some task. This custom may have originated as a thank-offering
to the god for good Spring and Fall harvests; if he did not send a good
harvest, he would remain blind or one-eyed. These dolls are still performing
a significant cultural function.
There are many related types or versions of Daruma in the various localities of Japan, some of them designated as female--"ehime daruma," or "princess daruma." One type is made with a gofun face and rich fabrics like a kimekomi ningyo, but shaped like a Daruma; these often come in boy-girl pairs.
|Hagoita, like Daruma, are associated with the New Year. They
richly decorated game paddles, traditonally given as new year's gifts to
girls. The game of hanetsuke is played with a feathered large seed for a
shuttlecock, which is hit with a painted wooden paddle; the other
side of the paddle is usually decorated with elaborate padded cloth faces
of geishas or kabuki actors, using an art form called "oshie" or "padded painting". The old year's
paddles are supposed to be burned at the end of the year.
Zen-shop has hagoita for sale, amply illustrated.