Kyo doll

Kyo doll Kyo ningyo

Elegant figures born of artisans’ expertise
Loved as gifts across generations

Description

What is Kyo doll ?

Kyo Ningyo are Japanese dolls produced in Kyoto City and the surrounding areas of Kyoto Prefecture. A Kyo Ningyo will be made by several different artisans all bringing a wide range of hard-won skills to their section of the doll: kashirashi (head), teashi-shi (hands and legs), kamitsukeshi (hair), kodogushi (accessories), and dokitsukeshi (costumes). The key feature of any Kyo Ningyo piece is the division of work in the production process, resulting in a high quality and elegantly tasteful doll.
Currently, dolls included under the umbrella of Kyo Ningyo are Hina, Gogatsu, Gosho, Ichimatsu, Ukiyo, and Fuzoku Ningyo. Hina Ningyo, a set of dolls for the Girls’ Festival on March 3rd, are the mainstream dolls dressed in costumes and produced in the largest quantities. Second in popularity are Gogatsu Ningyo or dolls and ornamental accessories displayed at the Boys’ Festival on May 5th; they include samurai dolls, armor and helmets, plump and ruddy-faced boy dolls, and Shoki the Plague-Queller. Gosho Ningyo, the chubby bouncing baby dolls, have a historical tradition of being given as gifts to the feudal lords by the Edo period Court. Ichimatsu Ningyo are boy and girl dolls, emulating the face of the Edo period Kabuki actor Ichimatsu Sanogawa, who was famous for his female roles and wearing ichimatsu (checked) patterns.
In addition, Kyoto, the production center of Nishijin brocade, produces such dolls as Fuzoku and Ukiyo Ningyo dressed in costumes, representing the trends, customs, and fabrics of earlier times.

History

From olden times, dolls have been used as the focus of faith, magic, and incantations, and they have a deeper connotation of being offered as a substitute at a time of plague or disaster; they were known as hitogata (human figures) or katashiro (substitue).
In the Heian period, with the blossoming of aristocratic culture, the magical purpose of such hitogata was gradually waning. Among the young girls at court, hiina-asobi, playing with dolls called hiina, was popular, and this is considered to be the beginning of today’s Kyo Ningyo.
In the Edo period, with the relocation of the center of national administration to Edo, hiina-asobi were traditionally played with on March 3rd; these hiina were gradually evolving into the sitting figures of Hina Ningyo. Thus the Girl’s Festival was established, and the dolls grew from playthings to seasonal festival dolls celebrating the birth and growth of children.
For the May 5th Boy’s Festival, decorative helmets and samurai dolls came to be produced. In Kyoto, a new doll culture bloomed, and a succession of different types of dolls were produced such as Saga, Kaga, Gosho, Fuzoku, and Ichimatsu Ningyo. The traditional techniques to make these dolls have been continuously passed on down the generations and even now, they are still being developed.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Production of the Head (by Kashirashi) Firstly, an original head form is carved in wood and a female die is created from pine or a similar resin. Paulownia wood dust is mixed and kneaded with fresh wheat gluten glue, and pressed into the die before removing to a drier. Then the shape is modified by carving. Glass eyes are fixed into the sockets, and all the head of the doll is coated with a mix of water, glue, and gofun (powdered calcium carbonate). Many layers of gofun are added to build up the thickness of the head, until finally any unevenness on the surface is modified with a cotton cloth. After thoroughly drying, the eyes and mouth are cut with a knife. The surface is smoothed with a scouring rush; more liquid gofun is applied; and the eyebrows are drawn and lipstick is applied with the typical powder colors used for Japanese paintings. Using light sumi ink, hairline hairs of the doll are meticulously drawn, and finally with bleached cotton, the head is polished.
  2. 2. Hair Production (by Kamitsukeshi) The doll’s hair made of raw black-dyed silk is first cut to a suitable length and then bundled. Grooves are carved with a knife into the scalp, and hair is fixed in place using rice starch, and a twisted-paper string is applied to prevent the rice starch from being seen.
    Hair is pulled with the left fingers, combed with a boxwood comb, and a heated smoothing iron applied, by repeating this process many times, a lustrous shine is given to the black silk hair. Finally the right and left sides of the hair are pulled up in the traditional Japanese style, and such hair ornaments as combs or hairpins put in place.
    3. Production of Hands and Legs (by Teashi-shi)
    Firstly, paulownia wood is sawn and planed to a uniform length and thickness; holes are drilled ready for the insertion of paper-wrapped wires that will become fingers. According to the desired finger shapes, the wire is bent, and the wrist section is shaved and smoothed with a knife. With gofun and glue, a base coat is applied, and the five fingers carefully etched with a knife. After paper and scouring rush polishing, gofun and glue is applied to give a final coating. Color is then applied to the fingertips, and the nails are drawn to finish.
  3. 3. Production of Hands and Legs (by Teashi-shi) Firstly, paulownia wood is sawn and planed to a uniform length and thickness; holes are drilled ready for the insertion of paper-wrapped wires that will become fingers. According to the desired finger shapes, the wire is bent, and the wrist section is shaved and smoothed with a knife. With gofun and glue, a base coat is applied, and the five fingers carefully etched with a knife. After paper and scouring rush polishing, gofun and glue is applied to give a final coating. Color is then applied to the fingertips, and the nails are drawn to finish.
  4. 4. Accessory Production (by Kodogushi) A wide range of accessories are made for Kyo Ningyo according to their type, and include fans, bows, hats, Japanese straw sandals, small wooden stands and dining tables, dressers, cabinets, large oblong chests, and even palanquins.
  5. 5. Dressing (by Dokitsukeshi: Cutting, Sewing, Dressing) Small rice straw bundles are wrapped with thread and Japanese paper to make the torso. After cutting to size, plywood is bonded to the torso.
    The neckband base and hands and legs (only hands for women dolls) are attached, and wire is inserted into the torso, and bent to fit the pose.
    The torso now receives the costume. For the neckband, kimono patterns are created using Japanese paper, and for the breast, pieces of fabric such as gold brocade or yuzen are attached to Japanese paper.
    According to the length and pattern design, fabric is cut, sewn, and glued. The fabric is then stitched to prevent any loss of shape. The fabrics used are those typical of Kyoto, such as Nishijin brocade. Lastly, the doll’s arms are bent to the desired pose.
  6. 6. Finishing and Completion The head with coiffed hair is fitted and finally, such accessories as a fan are put in place, and the Kyo Ningyo doll is given a thorough check to see everything is just perfect.

Where to Buy & More Information

Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts

Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts

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