Japan’s traditional dolls are magnificent, and each one has an endless and moving story behind it. There are records of dolls being made in Japan since ancient times, and it took exquisite craftsmanship to make the humanoid figures. These dolls are very versatile, and can be used as everything from children’s playthings to exorcism tools. Japan can be considered the country with the most vivid interpretation of doll culture in the world. These days, Japanese dolls can be found all over the world. For Japanese people, they continue to be associated with blessings and play an important role in traditional customs.
Updated at 2022-06-27
The Taira and Minamoto clans became embroiled in a national civi war in 12th century Japan. In the Battle of Dan-no-ura (1185), the defeated Taira clan fled to Shiiba, a village in what was then Hyūga Province. Nasu "Daihachiro" Munehisa, after having received orders to hunt down remaining members of the Taira clan, traveled deep into the mountains of Shiiba. Feeling pitty for the exiled Taira clan members, who were living in a state of misery, Nasu turned his back on his mission. He married Tsurutomi of the Taira clan and settled on Shiiba. In those days, millet was a staple. The artisans of Shiiba began making millet puppets to commemorate this story.
Kagamijishi is a Japanese Kabuki performance choreographed and performed by Danjuro Ichikawa IX. The shaking of the lion's mane became the icon of the show. Danjuro Ichikawa IX was extremely well-versed in protagonist and antagonist creation. He pioneered modern Japanese theater, and his performance remains a "living history" of Japan.
The puppet in the picture is a masked dancer performing in Kagura. Dancers wear different masks to perform as gods or ghosts. Dance performances in Japanese Shinto rituals are called Kagura. In Miyazaki, a series of events called the Takachiho Night Kagura is held in November each year, in which performers would dance and bang on their drums through the night.
Gifted by Yukitoshi Gunji, Deputy Governor of Miyazaki Prefecture; Toru Hoshihara, Chairman of the Japan-Taiwan Friendship Parliamentarians' Association, Miyazaki Prefectural Assembly; Shunji Kono, Governor of Miyazaki Prefecture; Kazunari Koizumi, Mayor of Narita; and Hideaki Umemoto, Chairman of the Mihara City Council (left to right)