May 19, 2018
In Japan, there are some traditional Japanese dolls called Nihon-Ningyo. It is a generic name of dolls which are wearing Japanese-style clothing and dressing Japanese hair made in Japan. One of Nihon-Ningyo is Kyo-Ningyo, which is made in Kyoto. This doll is so interesting. Most Japanese, especially Kyoto people, take good care of it and feel proud to have it. Today we will introduce one of the traditional Japanese dolls, Kyo-Ningyo. After introducing the doll, we would like to tell some of its history, how it is made that the different kinds of Kyo-Ningyo that are produced.
What is Kyo-Ningyo?
What is Kyo-Ningyo? It’s different from Hina-Ningyo. However, they are bothe the same kind of Japanese doll. Compared with Hina-Ningyo, which is shown only in March, most Japanese people, especially Kyoto people, who have a child display Kyo-Ningyo in their house all through the year. It is a kind of Japanese doll called Nihon-Ningyo and it’s called treasure of doll in Kyoto. It has a white face, long and narrow eyes and bobbed hair, and is wearing a kimono which is made from Nishijin-ori, fabric that was developed in Kyoto. It demands detailed work without compromise to make. Each part, like head, hair, trunk, arms and legs, is made separately and then finally synthesized from many parts into a whole doll. That’s why it takes much skill to make. The dolls are hand made by skilled craftspeople and they cost a fair bit. Japanese people use these dolls to pray for protection against ill-fortune, especially around their child. The doll can represent boys and girls to undertake their position as a scapegoat and is believed to safeguard their child’s health.
By way of a general description, Kyo-Ningyo is about 50～100 centimeters high. In fact, the height of these dolls won’t be expressed in centimeters, but express in “ban” or “gou” (Japanese words meaning number), which is a unit that indicates each doll’s size. It is expressed like “Kyo-12” or “Kyo-11 ban”. The size of doll is distributed from number from Kyo-12 ban to Kyo-7 ban. We can find which size is bigger clearly by idea which we explain from now. For example, Kyo-11 ban is same size as elevent part of Japanese height and Kyo-10 ban is same size as tenth part of Japanese height. So, you can find easily Kyo-10ban is bigger.
History of Kyo-Ningyo
The origin of Kyo-Ningyo goes back to the Nara Era (710 – 784) or perhaps an even older time. In ancient times, most traditional dolls, such as Haniwa and Dogu were made as human’s talisman. It is considered those dolls would shoulder human’s injury and ill-fortunre. Sometimes these dolls are found intermitted under the ground instead of humans. It is gradually changed from talisman to doll, and at this point the history of Kyo-Ningyo has begun. In the Heian Era (794 – 1185), playing with dolls was a trend among the aristocratic children. That doll was the origin of Hina-Ningyo. In the Edo era (1603 – 1868), the center of government was moved to Edo, but the center of doll making was still in Kyoto. At that time, many famous puppeteers were turned out from Kyoto. It is said that the form of Kyo-Ningyo was born in the Edo era. Kyo-Ningyo was famous for a tribute gift.
How to make Kyo-Ningyo
The operation process of Kyo-Ningyo was divided into small section, such as head, hair, arms and legs and so on. There is a specialist for making each section.
1. The process starts from the head section. The craftsman paints exclusive glue on doll’s head, then incises eyes, puts rouge on and draws eyebrows.
2. Another craftsman immerses the doll’s hair along a guide line. After that, he puts up doll’s hair and puts on the hair slide.
3. Finishing the head section, the craftsman moves on to body section. By using a knife, he whittles a piece of wood into a doll.
4. The other craftsman makes essential clothing and accessories for the dolls. For example, fan, bow, wardrobe and so on.
5. The costume for Kyo-Ningyo is also made by craftsman. Nishijin-Ori is often used for costume cloth.
The most famous dollmakers impart their skills only to their apprentices. In this way, the doll-making skills are kept secret from outsiders. This is why Kyo-Ningyo was designated as a traditional handwork by the Ministry of Economy and Industry.
Kinds of Kyo-Ningyo
There are a lot of kinds of Kyo-Ningyo. We will introduce 3 kinds of them, Fushimi Ningyo, Gosho Ningyo, and Sekku Ningyo.
First, Fushimi Ningyo is a clay doll and the oldest folk toy. It was sold in front of the gate of Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine that is one of the very famous tourist attractions in Kyoto from Aduchi-Momoyma Era (1503~1603). In Hatsu-uma (that refers to the first day of the horse in February in Japan), people visit and pray at the shrine, after that, buy the doll. They enshrine it on the Kamidana that is a household Shinto altar with a charm against fires. In the end of Edo period, it was the most popular doll among Japanese people. There are about 90 kinds of clay doll now, and all of them are modeled after Fushimi Ningyo.
Second is Gosho Ningyo. In the old times, the Imperial court gave the doll to the Daimyo (a feudal lord) in return for their dedicating. It was made for displaying in the middle of the Edo period, and displayed for celebrations such as marriage or childbirth. Gosho Ningyo is a plump children doll and has pure white skin. These are the greatest features of Gosho Ningyo.
Finally, Sekku Ningyo, which is the most familiar to Japanese people. “Sekku” means a seasonal festival in Japanese, for example, in Japan there are the doll festival in March, and children’s day in May. At this season, Japanese people display Sekku Ningyo. This contains a wish for healthy growth to their children.
Kyo-Ningyo has been made since earlier than the Nara Era (A.D. 710) and has a lot of history. After the capital city of Japan was moved from Kyoto to Edo that is called Tokyo now, Kyoto remained famous for making dolls and is still the center of doll-making now. and also Kyo-Ningyo was designated to as a traditional handwork by the Ministry of Economy and Industry. Japanese people display Kyo-Ningyo in their houses or give it to someone to pray their children’s healthy growth. We recommend you to look at or buy Kyo-Ningyo for a souvenir. The total cost of the doll is different depending on the size, the cheapest one is about 50,000 yen and an expensive one is about 250,000 yen or more expensive. You will definitely find Kyo-Ningyo that you can like.