A Brief History of Antique Japanese Dolls

The Popularity of Japanese Dolls - Since 200 BC

Antique Japanese dolls are a well-sought-after collector’s item, but why are they so popular? Antique Japanese dolls gained popularity during the 11th century, but their origin can be traced back as far as 200 BC! The history of Japanese dolls and their origin is a fascinating one, making them desirable collector’s items.

Japanese Geisha & Samurai Warrior Dolls

The earliest Japanese dolls were modeled after humans and were believed to help defend themselves from sickness and tragedies. One of the earliest traditional Japanese dolls was modeled after the Geisha - a high class female in Japanese culture. Antique Japanese Geisha dolls were thought to help females with fertility and good luck, as these dolls are beautifully crafted with intricate detail making Antique Japanese Geisha dolls so sought after.

Antique Japanese dolls depicting Samurai warriors have also become very popular. These eclectic dolls depict the traditional Samurai warrior in battle garb complete with armor and sword. Samurai dolls had an immense impact on Japanese culture as they were considered some of the most fierce and beloved warriors. Japanese children would play with these dolls often, similar to children playing with action figures today.

Origins of Japanese Dolls

The creation of antique Japanese dolls like this Japanese Emperor doll, was widely popularized throughout Japan during the Edo period (1603 - 1867). During this time many dolls began to emerge throughout Japan, with different doll variations reflecting the regional and cultural differences of the country.

The history of Japanese dolls and their origins can be broken into three categories: Daruma, Kokeshi, and Hakata:

  • Daruma dolls typically have white faces that are painted to emulate Japanese Geishas.
  • Kokeshi dolls are made of wood and were popularized during the Edo period.
  • Hakata dolls are made of clay and have the most detailing of the three dolls.

Japanese Doll

Cultural Significance

Antique Japanese dolls became so popular in Japan that the Hinamatsuri festival was created - where women celebrated these historic dolls, like this Japanese Taisho doll with beautifully designed garments. During the festival Japanese dolls are placed in displays showcased on top of red cloth for people to admire their beauty.

The Hinamatsuri festival is also an opportunity for families to display their status, with the wealthier families presenting the most intricate displays with a larger numbers of dolls, typically seated showcased on tiered shelves. These extravagant displays can accumulate to as much as $3,000, while parents typically give their daughters two dolls before she participates in her inaugural Hinamatsuri - the intricacy of the Japanese dolls being dependent upon the family’s wealth.

Antique Japanese Edo Samurai Doll

Japan has a very rich and interesting cultural history, including their food and music, however to us their art particularly stands out. At FEA Home we enjoy continuously searching for vintage & antique Japanese dolls to add to our antique dolls collection so that we can further share their history with our clients.

We have hundreds of Japanese dolls on display at FEA Home. Contact us for a private showing. 

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