Kyo doll

Kyo doll Kyo ningyo

Elegant figures born from the artisans' expertise
Loved as gifts by all generations


What is Kyo doll ?

Kyo dolls are Japanese dolls produced in the city of Kyoto and its surrounding areas in the Kyoto prefecture. A Kyo doll is made by several different artisans with their specialized hard-won skills. There are doll head artisans followed by artisans specialized in making doll hands and leg parts, hair, accessories, and costumes. The key feature of any Kyo doll is the division of work in the production process, resulting in a high quality and elegant doll. Currently, dolls that are officially recognized as Kyo dolls are Hina doll, Gogatsu doll, Gosho doll, Ichimatsu doll, Ukiyo doll, and Fuzoku doll.
The Hina doll is a doll kid, which records the highest production among all the Kyo dolls and it is now the mainstream of the Kyo doll. Additionally, this doll is displayed during a specific occasion which is the Girls' Festival that takes place every March 3rd.
The second most popular dolls are Gogatsu dolls which are displayed during the Boys' Festival on May 5th. This Gogatsu doll includes samurai dolls, armor and helmets, plump and ruddy-faced boy dolls, and Shoki the Plague-Queller.
Gosho dolls, chubby bouncing baby dolls, have a historical tradition of being given as gifts to feudal lords by the court during the Edo period (1603-1868).
The boys and girls shaped dolls that have checkered patterns are called Ichimatsu dolls (ichimatsu meaning "checkered patterns" in Japanese). This doll's face is made with emulating an Edo period Kabuki (a traditional Japanese drama play) actor, Ichimatsu SANOGAWA, who was famous for his female roles wearing checkered patterns.
In addition, Kyoto, the production center of Nishijin brocade, produces such dolls as Fuzoku and Ukiyo dolls as well. The dolls are dressed in costumes, representing the trends, customs, and fabrics of earlier times.


From olden times, dolls have had a deep connotation of being offered as the substitution of unfortunate situations such as plague or disaster. Therefore, they were called "human figures" (hitogata) or "substitutes" (katashiro).
During the Heian period (794-1185), with the blossoming of the aristocratic culture, the ritural purpose of such human figures was gradually waning. Among the young girls at court, playing with Hiina dolls (called hiina asobi)was popular, and this is considered to be the beginning of today's Kyo dolls.
During the Edo period, with the relocation of the center of the national administration to Edo (ancient name of Tokyo), hiina asobi was traditionally played on the 3rd of March. These Hiina dolls were gradually evolving into the sitting figures of Hina doll. This is how the Girls' Festival was established, and the dolls transformed from games to seasonal festival dolls celebrating the birth and growth of children. For the Boys' Festival on May 5th, decorative helmets and samurai dolls came to be produced. In Kyoto, a new doll culture was established and different types of dolls were produced one after another such as Saga, Kaga, Gosho, Fuzoku, and Ichimatsu dolls. The traditional techniques to make these dolls have been continuously passed on down from generations to generations and even now, they are still being developed.

Where to Buy & More Information

Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts

Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts

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