Some Japanese figurines I know little about
August 24, 2014 2:06 PM   Subscribe

I inherited these painted bamboo figurines (approx 2 1/2 ins tall) from my mother. We lived in Kobe up to 1936 when my family and I wisely returned to England. I discovered them in a cardboard box and I wonder whether any of you can give me information about them - maybe dinner table ornaments made for foreigners? Any answers gratefully received, as always!
posted by lungtaworld to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think they may be a kind of Hina Doll. My parents lived in Japan and when ladies found out she collected them, they'd wait until the dead of night and dump them on her doorstep.

Most dolls are shown sitting, as members of the court.

It's a place to start!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:11 PM on August 24, 2014

They also resemble Kokeshi dolls a bit, but I've seen similar original things made by local folks (one of my neighbors just gave us some bamboo carved snails) that are not for any specific purpose- just a crafty hobby. Yours are a bit more detailed though, so may have a more interesting story.?.
posted by p3t3 at 4:29 PM on August 24, 2014

Best answer: We have a bunch of these - they're just bamboo dolls. You can still buy similar ones, pretty cheaply, today. I don't think there's a special meaning to them - and not made just for foreigners - we're Japanese. (They're not Girls' Days dolls - those can be pretty pricey.) It's nice yours are pre-war.
posted by umwhat at 5:01 PM on August 24, 2014

As umwhat says, I think they are a variation of "take-ningyo" and are neither kokeshi nor "hina-matsuri" dolls. The dolls for the hina-matsuri are typically porcelain. Kokeshi dolls look quite different and are typically made from hardwood, such as cherry.
posted by Nevin at 7:41 PM on August 24, 2014

Best answer: The slit in the pipe next to the doll makes me wonder if they are place card holders for a dinner table.
posted by Cranberry at 11:07 PM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

They aren't hina dolls, hina dolls represent a Heian era imperial court. The ones with the mushroom-shaped and folded-over hats seem to be dancers, and the other two are carrying pails of water.
posted by sukeban at 11:13 PM on August 24, 2014

Response by poster: Many thanks for all your answers, I have marked two as best answers.
To my untutored eye, they seem to be a mixture based on Mizukuni and Echizen bamboo dolls, and I have learnt something new.
posted by lungtaworld at 11:53 AM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

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