Doll exhibit gives a glimpse into the private lives of Japanese

A.M. Costa Rica photos/Kayla Pearson
The collection Muñecas Acata, made in the Hakata Kyushu region, represents clay dolls in sports, battle and the arts

Dolls are typically thought of as children’s toys, that are used for play dates and given personalities by the owner’s imagination. In Japan, the delicately made figurines carry a deeper significance. They are created with intriguing designs, colors and shapes and collected as an embodiment of the ideals of the people.

“A tradition of 1,000 years which has passed from generation to generation, the doll is not a simple game, but is an art in this oriental country,” said a release from the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica. “Made with care by artisans and artists, they are testimony to the culture, customs and aspirations of its people and occupy a privileged place in homes and the lives of their infants.

The Japanese Embassy in Costa Rica, Japan Foundation and the national museum are hosting an exhibition that showcases 75 of the traditional dolls. The dolls are on a world tour. They came from Brazil and will travel to Honduras next month.

The exhibit is located in the museum’s west hall for temporary exhibits. To get there, visitors take a transformative journey through the butterfly garden and past the pre-Columbian permanent showcase to a white room where Japanese lanterns and umbrellas line the walls and colorful dolls behind protective glass casings provide contrast to the surroundings. Here persons are able to envision daily activities of the Japanese through the various scenarios set up and acted out by the wooden, porcelain and clay models.

Children’s games like the New Year’s classic called buriburi where a wooden hammer is used to hit a ball are depicted in one room. In the back is a collection that represents Japanese special events. One example is the dolls festival, Hina Matsuri, held March 3 where families exhibit dolls as a sign of prayer for the happiness of their daughters. Another is the flag festival, Tango no Sekku, held May 5 where figurines of warriors are shown to offer prayers for male children to grow healthy and strong.

Wooden doll is of a woman from the Edo period absorbed in a good book.

For the later, a strong young warrior dressed in battle gear in preparation for his first war serves as a centerpiece. The arts are also represented with dolls that show the noh theater and the classic bunraku puppet theatre. Dolls designed after musicians show the art of playing the biwa, the Japanese lute with four strings. Athletes depict sports like sumo, portrayed through a fighter performing his ritual before combat.

Older dolls from the Edo Period, a time that lasted from the early 1600s to the late 1800s, adorn the middle showroom. Wooden kimekomi dolls dressed in colorful fabrics show persons doing hobbies such as reading a book.

Wooden doll is of a woman from the Edo period absorbed in a good book.

The kokeshi dolls from northeast Japan are also wooden characters, but possess no arms or legs. They are simply large heads on cylindrical bodies, brought to life with bright colors.

All these techniques will be available to view until March 3. Persons can visit the museum during the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sundays.

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