Sunday, 1 March 2009

Hakata-style? Kyoto Ningyo - a traditional Japanese doll

Today was the final day of Quiltfest at the Royal International Pavilion, Llangollen. We had an extra day's opening because it was the monthly antiques fair in the main hall. I was demonstrating sashiko on the Denman Kannon (more fish scales!) but when it was quiet and several more demonstrators had turned up, I had a look around the antiques fair.

I can usually spot any potential Japanese items of interest on one look across a sales table. First, I spotted a very nice early C20th lidded sugar bowl in porcelain, with a beautiful snowscene of minka farmhouses, Shinto shrine and bamboo grove. It was sitting in a section labelled "Everything on this table - £2". Turned out it had a very minor chip inside the lid. It is sitting in the china cabinet right now. I will try to take a photo in daylight. The design looked like it could be simplified into a very attractive sashiko landscape design.

Directly opposite, another stallholder had a £1 box on the floor in front of their table. I glanced down and spotted this ningyo (doll) figurine shown above - £1! I couldn't believe it. Here are some more pictures -

She is a maiko, apprentice geisha. Her hairstyle, kimono, darari-style obi and okobo are all worn by maiko. Her obi has the okiya's crest at the bottom (the camera just didn't want to focus on this!)

She has the original makers label at the bottom. It reads "(yes) Kyoto Ningyo"and "Kyo (captial) doll studio". I can't read the middle kanji so have asked Shiro if he can. UPDATE - the centre of the label reads "Gosho" - that sounded familiar, so I looked it up - more info here.

This is quite a modern figure - 1990s or later. There used to be a doll shop in Sakata city which sold figures like this. Although they are called dolls, they are for display, not playing. I don't know a lot about Japanese dolls and had assumed the Kyoto dolls like this always had fabric kimono added, whereas this kimono looks more like Hakata-style dolls - although the way the face is portrayed is different, much more simplified.

This is the only bit of damage I found - luckily it doesn't seem that anyone has tried to wash it off, since these dolls aren't washable. They are earthenware, with a matte finish. More information about them here.

I have one other similar doll - a Hakata doll - a fisherman, which appeared in "The Ultimate Sashiko Sourcebook". He was probably made in the 1950s, when many of these dolls were bought as souvenirs by USA servicemen. Unlike the doll above, he has a slight sheen, which seems to have been some kind of waterproofing added to the dolls to make them (in theory) "washable". It definitely isn't advisable to wash them. I am going to try to remove the mark on the dolls obi with some bread or similar, but will see if I can find out any cleaning information first. I don't want to replace the slight dirty mark with a grease stain!

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