Ichimatsu Dolls

Tokubei Yamada, in The History of Japanese Dolls, writes the following about Ichimatsu Dolls:

"What have come to be called Ichimatsu dolls were first produced in the Kanpo and Horeki(1741-1764), the faces designed to resemble Sanogawa Ichimatsu, a Kabuki actor who was famous for his portrayal of young men. There may have been similar kinds of dolls before then, but those with the face of Ichimatsu became extremely popular, and eventually all kinds of this doll came to be called Ichimatsu dolls. In the Meiji era, the name was most popular in the Kyoto-Osaka region, but during the Edo period, the bare, unclothed doll was merely called by the generic term ‘doll,’ and the type came to represent dolls in general."

Yamada goes on to explain that while ordinary named after an Edo-period Kabuki actor, Ichimatsu dolls had a body that could be dressed in different costumes, and those of the highest quality had moveable joints at the head, waist, knees, and ankles, so that they could be easily arranged in a variety of sitting and standing positions. Furthermore, the author states that there were both boy and girl dolls, and that children made clothes for them, dressed them, and actually played with them.

Particularly in western Japan, where they were called “Ichima-san,” they were a familiar presence in women’s lives. In many homes it was a typical practice when making kimonos to make clothing for dolls as well, and this was true at all levels of society from the Edo period on. Until just one or two generations ago, Ichimatsu dolls were regularly passed down form mother to daughter, and new dolls were acquired for daughters about to be married, but such traditions and customs have now been lost.

Times have changed and so has the family and relationships between parents and children. When people share time and space with each other, they are a family. In that sense, Tomo dolls will continue to be a part of family, not as an object of nostalgia or an ostentatious decoration, but because of the unique quality of their presence.

These days, there seem to be many definitions for the word "family". Some families are defined by shared memories of the past, or by shared dreams and goals for the future. Dolls can help us as we grope for new forms and meanings for the concept of family. Ichimatsu dolls, with the forms and faces of young children, represent our common origin and can become another self to turn to. Even for those who live alone, a doll can be a reminder of the great importance of living with another person.

Dolls in Western-style Dress

In a group of dolls wearing colorful kimonos, two sisters in Western-style dresses look rather lonely. They appear to be clever and graceful, but even when that cool, rather arched look common to young girls seems to flicker across their faces, they still give the impression of being somewhat melancholy, and this charming quality captures the imagination of the viewer. The Western-style clothes of Tomo dolls are also made of antique Kimono fabrics. The dresses are of thick, plain silk crepe, but Oshima pongee, a type of hand-woven silk dyed in dark colors soft, is also used. The linings are made from the same material used in the lining for men’s Haori, the traditional short coats. From the Edo period on, lining were an important feature of fashionable dress, and the patterns and colors still remain startlingly vivid. No effort is spared in the time-consuming, production of the petticoat and its decorative hem, the socks and shoes. Visitors at exhibition are often pleasantly surprised to find that coral beads from old ornamental hairpins have been refashioned into necklaces for the dolls. All their aspects, large and small, reveal the joy of creation?the hallmark of a Tomo doll.