The art of doll making in Japan has an ancient history. In early times, they had representational and metaphorical meaning. Dolls having a human figure are called ningyo. Having dolls in Japan is a deep cultural norm, particularly for when girls make the transition from girlhood to acknowledged adulthood. The production of dolls has continued into the modern age, with them becoming very popular souvenirs/collectible post war (WWII).
In this instance, our lady is lady is 11 in tall. She is fashioned from gofun, a type of composition material, made from crushed oyster shell, wood, and glue. This doll is unusual in that she is attired in what could be described as "city" clothing, but from the woven straw hat she is wearing, she is clearly outside of the city. The other unusual clue is that close to her is a depiction of Japanese tombstone, made of balsam wood, with a "roof", and Japanese characters meant (it is thought) to portray an ancestor(s)'s name. Going to pray at an ancestor's tombstone, washing it, and lighting joss/incense sticks is normative.
Our lady is dressed in a scarlet under kimono, with the top kimono having an azure back ground, styled with bursts of multi colored flowers, and splashes of more scarlet. She has a solid black obi, tied with gold colored cord. She has a strip of black silk, slung baldric style, with a fixed fan tucked in it. On her feet are traditional tabi, slipped into black lacquered, wooden geta. The hairdo is upswept, with a simple velvet ribbon binding up the back. The woven straw hat has been woven in a round, complex pattern, which wraps down on both sides of the doll's head, as it is tied under her chin. Her hands her are raised in a gesture, which are assumed to be part of the dance (see below).
Accompanying the doll and the tombstone is a pamphlet, mostly in Japanese. It has some very interesting illustrations. According to the English portion of the pamphlet, our lady is called an Awa Dancer, This style of dancing originated 300 years ago, to celebrate the building of a castle. The style of dancing is apparently free form and fluid. It would seem that the dance is performed in groups of 10. So whether the dancing is related just to the building celebration and she happens just to be going by the tombstone, I think will be revealed only by those who can translate the pamphlet!
The doll is enclosed in a case which is 18 and 1/2 in by 12 in, which is composed of glass and wood. The case is rather fragile and the doll does not come out of it. The doll is mid-century and is in lovely vintage condition. Please note that her back geta does not completely touch the floor of the case, which makes her lean a little. This can be easily rectified, at the purchaser's discretion. She is ready to dance into your heart!
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