History of Kyo-Dolls
The evolution of dress-up dolls including its costume and make-up with playful variations amazes many people. However, if we look back to the Heian period (794-1185), there were already dolls that were even more detailed and realistic than today’s dress-up dolls. Even today, there are craftsmen who continue to make these dolls and have preserved the tradition for 1,000 years without fading its technique and beauty. These dolls are called “Kyo dolls” because they were mainly made in Kyoto and are considered to be the culmination of Kyoto’s traditional craftsmanship. One of its greatest characteristics is the division of labor in its creation method. The handiwork of professionals is in each process including the head, hairpiece, hands and feet and dressing which is fascinating to watch the detail work.
A traditional event that hasn’t faded away for 1,000 years
More than 1,000 years ago, dolls, such as clay figures and haniwa clay figurines (human clay figure) were originally used for burial in place of humans and to ward off evil spirits. In the Heian period (794-1185), girls of aristocratic class play with the dolls by imitating many occasions held in palace which is exactly same how children plays with doll these days. In the Edo period (1603-1867), although everything shifted to the center of Edo, the production of dolls remained in Kyoto where many craftsmen for the doll live. In Japan, 3rd of March is called “Momo no Sekku” (Peach Festival) because it was the season when peaches were in bloom. On that day, girls of the aristocratic class played with the doll, palace and its decorations to pray for good luck. This event is called “Hinamatsuri” (Girls’ Festival) and is still loved as a day to celebrate the birth and growth of children. The reason why the culture of Kyo dolls spread all over Japan was because new types of the dolls were created, which is not only for girls, but also for boys with the decorated helmets and warrior costume.
Today, the nuclear family has become the norm, and the number of three-generation families is decreasing. From this circumstance, the opportunity for young people to spend time with their grandparents are also decreasing, which make young generations hard to experience traditional culture. In order to solve this problem, craftspeople who make Kyo dolls are taking various approaches to promote the excellence of their craft to people of all ages and all gender. For example, in response to the demand for modern houses, small and less colorful Kyo dolls that can easily fit in with other interior decorations are now available. In addition to this, while sales of the dolls are declining due to the COVID-19, some are thinking to gain long-term profit by targeting young people through their social media activities. The techniques and skills born in ancient times have left their mark on the modern age. Kyo dolls, which are familiar to various generations, will continue to attract your attention in new ways in the coming years.
The history of Kyo dolls, which have preserved for 1,000 years, can still be seen and felt today because of the craftspeople who have passed down their skills. Please come and see the lamps of these craftsmen’s souls.