Time-Honoured Craft of Japanese Dolls
The time-honoured craft of Japanese dolls may not be merely viewed as children’s toys but as “sophisticated works of art that paint the rich cultural traditions of Japan”. This thought was emphasised on by Japanese consul-general Akira Ouchi at the inauguration of an exhibition titled, “The Dolls of Japan: shapes of prayer, embodiments of love,” held at the consulate on Monday.
The show introduces Japan’s representative dolls, all part of the country’s ancient past. The inauguration, as Mr Ouchi said, coincided with the March 3 festivities of Hina Matsuri in Japan.
Translated as the Girls’ Festival, the celebration sees families all over the country paint and display dolls while praying for the happiness and health of their girls. March 5 will then witness the celebration of the Boys’ Festival or Tango no Sekku, and families with sons will display sets of miniature armour and costumed warriors all over Japan.
This is an expression of the country’s customs and traditions that have survived despite its long and brutal history. For Mr Ouchi, this exhibition is a means to “discover Japan again” as it allows a wider diversity of people to access and understand it.
With more than 80 exhibits, the dolls highlight a diverse and intricate craftsmanship that is an exquisite example of fine decorative art in Japan. Mr Ouchi said the exhibition offered to viewers the versatility of the Japanese people, as “each doll has its own distinct meaning and purpose connected to daily life in Japan” while still possessing regional attributes.
The exhibits reflect a wide cross-section of Japanese society. From rulers, richly attired, and samurais, to the humble servants, modest in their clothing and demeanour, the dolls allow an in depth representation of the country.
Some of the most impressive dolls include the Imperial Palace dolls, also called Izukura Ningyo, in formal dress. Other dolls depicting Japanese customs were of young children, playing with a wooden hammer (buriburi) to hit a ball. The buriburi is considered a ceremonial toy for the New Year.
Pakistan-Japan Cultural Association vice president Pervez Iqbal was of the opinion that no one could tell stories as the Japanese did. He said: “Japan always has had the best art of telling stories. Be it through the art of flower arrangement, the Ikebana, the bonsai, or dolls.”
Having lived in the country for many years, Mr Iqbal shared pleasant memories of his stay and highlighted the need to share the “history and culture of both countries through the narration of stories”. In his opinion, the exhibition successfully managed to achieve this.
Special assistant to the chief minister Sharmila Farooqi, who was the chief guest, shared her first experience of being gifted a Japanese doll, at the young age of eight.
She said for her it was a toy then but the doll still had a lot of significance for her, as it revealed the “culture, tradition and a flavour of Japanese society”.
The exhibition is to be open for public viewing at the Japan Information and Culture Centre from March 3 to March 7, between 10am and 4pm.