Japanese textiles dolls ceramics kanzashi by Asian Art by Kyoko

Wakashu Ningyo, Young Man Doll


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Directory: Archives: Regional Art: Asian: Japanese: Pre 1940: Item # 414685
Asian Art By Kyoko
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We learn how people lived in the Edo period (1603-1867) from the dolls (ningyo) that were left to us today. They are called Fuuzoku (customs and manners) ningyo or Ukiyo (floating world) ningyo. There are basically two types of dolls of young men among them.

Wakashu ningyo is one of them. Wakashu was used to refer to young men who had yet to experience the ceremonial rite of passage of becoming a man, commonly at the age of 12 in the old time. During the ceremony, the front hair will be cut off. They start to wear an eboshi hat with different style of clothing. These dolls are standing dressed in rich brocades, often carrying a sword or music instrument. Their hairstyle is that of a young man.

The other type of dolls were young men dressed as women. These dolls were most likely the look-a-like dolls of popular actors. They were what some might consider the most beautiful "female" dolls that we see today. It can be the Kichiya at the Tokyo National Museum or Ichimatsu that we had not seen. Today, very few of the dolls remain from the Edo Period. You can probably see them only in museums.

The beautiful doll that we offer here definitely has the distinguished look of a Wakashu ningyo .

The doll is 16 3/4 inches tall on 3/4 inches base. The dimensions of the base are: 9 1/2" w x 8 1/4" x 3/4", there is a little dent in the back of the base. Circa Taisho to early Showa.

The Female Impersonators in Kabuki Play: There were no female actresses allowed in the Edo period after recounting the problem in the beginning. The Kabuki play originally started with a group of women but they quickly turned into off stage prostitutes. After the females were prohibited by law, the young males took the part of females in the play but they too took the same course. The government placed the age limit this time. This is the reason that you find the strange looking women painted in Ukiyo-e. All female impersonators were played by older men. Today, the tradition still continued in Kabuki.

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