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Kokeshi dolls on display

Types of Traditional Japanese Dolls

Hinamatsuri (雛祭り) is a special celebration held each year on the 3rd of March in Japan. During Japan’s Heian period (794 to 1185), people believed that dolls had the power to hold evil spirits within them and the tradition of displaying dolls began around this time.

A popular traditional Japanese craft are Japanese dolls or ningyō (人形), literally “human shape”. There are different types of traditional Japanese dolls that range in various forms from babies, warriors, imperial court characters, to deities. Many of them have a story and a long-standing tradition and are still made today for shrines at homes and festivals. It was during the Edo period that most of the traditional Japanese doll types known today were developed.

Different types of traditional Japanese dolls

Hina dollHina doll – these dolls are associated with Hinamatsuri every March 3rd each year. Japanese families create altars holding the dairi-bina, or imperial palace dolls usually made of elaborate materials. The classic hina doll has a pyramid body stuffed with straw or wood blocks, carved wooden hands, and glass eyes for newer dolls.  A full set comprises of at least 15 dolls.Kokeshi doll

Kokeshi dollthese are traditional hand-crafted Japanese wooden dolls with origins that can be traced to northern Japan. The dolls have a straight cylindrical body with large round heads. The faces of the kokeshi are painted with simple lines that still convey their various expressions. Since the dolls are hand-painted, each doll is unique; no two kokeshi dolls have identical faces.

Kimekomi doll Kimekomi doll – these wooden carved dolls are dressed in elaborate costumes and decorated fabric of a historical and traditional manner. The dolls have become very popular for many doll hobbyists with craft and kits with finished heads available in the market where doll makers can design their own dolls.

Gosho Ningyo dollGosho Ningyo doll – also called palace dolls, were usually awarded to feudal lords by the Emperor. The dolls are easily recognized with their distinct cheerful, rounded white faces with tufts or a full head of hair. The dolls are made of wood and crushed oyster shells, hand painted faces, garbed in traditional clothing.

Hakata doll

Hakata doll – these dolls originate from Hakata Ward, Fukuoka City. These dolls are made from ceramic taking many forms with “the beautiful one”, being the most popular. This particular doll is of a beautiful woman garbed in silk kimono. The face is painstakingly hand painted by the doll maker using a thin brush to create the delicate expressions of each doll.Okiagari Koboshi

Okiagari Koboshi – the name literally means “the priest who gets back up”. These dolls date back to the 24th century and are made of paper maché. The base of the dolls are weighted enabling it to stand upright whenever tipped over. They are also charms for resilience and are commonly sold in the Aizu region of Fukushima prefecture.



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Read all about Japanese immersion learning and studying abroad. Check out our eZasshi archives for more articles!