“The Dolls of Japan” in Yerevan

There have been plenty of scary legends told about dolls in different cultures. Some truly give shivers others simply sound like regular funny tales. And while some are carrying only narratives others represent cultural heritage, for instance, Japanese dolls. Throughout history, dolls reflected the customs of Japan and have been a part of the everyday life of its people. To me, Japanese dolls are one of the sources of inspiration and good taste. Starting from facial expressions, body movements, and ending with color choices and textile selection, there are too many details to embrace and too many stories to learn. In short, art pieces to admire.

Fortunately, I had the chance to attend the traveling exhibition “The Dolls of Japan” organized in Yerevan by the Japan Foundation, Embassy of Japan in Armenia, Ministry of Culture of RA and Tumanyan Museum. The Japanese Foundation works on enhancing the understanding of the Japanese culture throughout the world. The exhibition lasted for two months and was held at the Museum named after Hovhannes Tumanyan. Around 50 handmade dolls were showcased to the public and according to the guide, despite the fact that the dolls are the only copies from the original ones that are showcased in Japan, they are still “incredibly expensive”. One of the dolls even got broken during the transportation and the guide, in jest, said that she could not wait for the exhibition to close so that she could safely breathe.

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The idea of handing out small booklets with the list of the most popular dolls presented at the exhibition along with their stories seemed to be a very good one. The visitors simply did not only looked at the aesthetics of the art pieces but also came close to knowing their background stories and meaning. Dolls appeared to be real characters. For example, the Gogatsu Ningyo doll is meant for the Boys’ Festival held on May 5 when families with sons by displaying sets of miniatures of costumed warriors offer prayers for their sons to grow up strong and healthy.

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Or another festival held on March 3 when families with daughters celebrate the Hina Matsuri (Doll Festival). On this day family also display dolls, this time it is the male-female pair of Hina dolls put at the top of the display, aimed as a prayer for their young daughters’ happiness. The two photographs below are the Ishogi and Shinno-Kazari whose costumes are based on the Imperial family’s costume during the Heian period.

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It is nice to see how the museums of Armenia are filled with different cultures and how schoolkids admiringly look at the exhibits and ask curious questions to the guides. One of the visitors along with her little granddaughter caught my attention with their peculiar interest for dolls. The woman could not restrain herself from touching the art pieces while formally addressing the doll by its name written on the tablet at the bottom. Imagine guide’s face while the woman was caressing the doll. On the instant reprimand of the guide, the woman with a regretful smile on her face said: “but I honestly can’t resist myself…she is so sweet.” It reminded me of the Selena Gomez song and I really hope you will get which one.

So let the photos from the exhibition speak for themselves:

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