Japan Atlas: Traditional Crafts 
Kyoto Dolls
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 Data 
Location: Kyoto City, Kyoto Pref.

 Number of companies: 49

 Number of workers: 300

 Events: Memorial Service for Dolls at Hokyoji Temple in October.

 

 

The Birthplace of Japanese Dolls 
 

Japan is regarded as a treasure house of dolls, and Kyoto has been the focus of doll-making. Kyoto dolls started out as popular toys among the children of the nobility in the medieval period, and by the 17th century, had been developed into highly artistic dolls for decoration. Although many kinds of dolls are produced, most of them are made with a wooden and painted head dressed in gorgeous costumes. Being also a production center of high-class weaves called Nishijin Weaves, Kyoto has always been the ideal place for making costume dolls. By using Nishijin textiles for dolls' costumes, the doll-makers in Kyoto have produced many exquisite and elegant dolls. 

In the process of manufacturing dolls, labor is strictly divided for the head, attaching the hair, limbs, accessories and costuming, and each is the handicraft of artisans with many years of experience. This sophisticated, specialized production system has given the dolls characteristics and individuality that are unique to Kyoto. 
 

Among the Kyoto dolls produced today, 70 percent are so-called "Sekku-ningyo" (festival dolls). Many families with children decorate their house with these dolls on the third day of March for girls and on the fifth of May for boys to celebrate to grow up in good health. Kyoto dolls are made by techniques refined over the generations, and their unchanged elegance is still appreciated by the Japanese. 

Photos: (From top) The white expression of Kyoto dolls is impressive; Working on a doll's head; Dolls are dressed in Nishijin kimonos; A pair of "Ichimatsu-ningyo," dolls that depict children. (Kyo-Ningyo Commercial and Industrial Cooperative Association) 

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