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Japanese dolls empower generations

Update: March, 11/2013 - 04:24

Visitors in thrall: The Japanese Traditional Doll Exhibition at the Vietnamese Women's Museum is attracting a big turnout. — VNS Photo Truong Vi

HA NOI (VNS)— More than 200 traditional Japanese dolls are on show at the Vietnamese Women's Museum.

At the exhibition's opening on Thursday, one little girl, Nguyen Tuong Van, seemed embarrassed to receive a kimono doll from a Japanese boy as a gift.

"I like the doll very much but this is the first time I've seen a Japanese doll," Van said.

The doll she was given is used to celebrate Hinamasuri, also called Dolls's Day or Girls' Day, when prayers are said for a girl's growth and happiness.

Most of the exhibits are Edo-Kimekomi dolls, created by the Sachiei-Kai Association in Tokyo, which were presented to the museum in 2005. The dolls depict Japanese festivals, folklore and traditions.

Kimekomi refers to the way the dolls are made. It is believed these dolls were first created by a high-ranking shrine priest some 300 years ago in Japan's former capital, Kyoto.

Exquisite: Japanese traditional dolls are on display at the museum.

The body of the doll is wooden. Fabric or kimono material is carefully tucked into the carved grooves and the doll is completed by adding a painted head with a neck made of a lighter wood.

Each doll takes an average of two years to complete, according to artisan Sathiei Itoh, chairwoman of the Traditional Edo-Kimekomi Dolls Sachiei-Kai Association, who prepared the exhibition.

"We are so happy and touched to see again the dolls we donated to the museum seven years ago," she said. "The dolls have been well preserved."

The 70-year-old artesan said she was grateful for the museum's efforts in maintaining the precious dolls.

Itoh fondly remembers the exhibition at the museum in 2005, which celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Vietnamese Women's Union and attracted over 1,000 visitors.

"They were extremely interested in Japanese culture and the kimono dolls display," she recalled. "That event seems only just yesterday and is still so vivid in my mind."

The Edo-Kimekomi Dolls Sachiei-Kai, based in Tokyo, has a large membership and about 350 teachers of traditional doll-making.

The association aims to preserve this unique Japanese method of making dolls. With 50 years' experience in the Kimekomi-technique, Itoh wants to share the joy of this tradition and promote appreciation of the dolls.

Her collection at the museum is entitled Welcome New Year and features a mouse family making a traditional cake called mochi with a message of good health and peace.

The exhibition was made even more meaningful on the occasion of International Women's Day yesterday.

It is also an opportunity for local and foreign visitors to learn more about the collaboration to preserve and promote cultural heritage as well as friendship between Viet Nam and Japan, particularly among their women.

A visitor, Thanh Van, was impressed by what she saw.

"The handmade dolls, including children, old people and samurai, are very sophisticated," she said. "It proves that Japanese artesans work hard to create a perfect doll."

Van added that she now knows more about Japanese culture: "There are common points between Viet Nam and Japan which have been traditional from generation to generation."

Another visitor, Mary Elisabeth Croy from the US, was also excited to see the exhibition.

"It is very beautiful and is inspiring. It's lovely," she said. The traditional wedding dolls inspired her to write poems about them.

At the opening, many young visitors joined in activities to experience and understand Japanese culture, including trying on a traditional kimono, folding origami and enjoying folk games.

Japanese artisans from the Sachiei-Kai also instructed visitors in the doll-making.

Just a five-minute walk from the museum at 36 Ly Thuong Kiet Street is another display of dolls at the Japan Foundation, at 27 Quang Trung Street.

This exhibition of about 40 dolls was completed in 1989 and has toured all over the world. Viet Nam is the 51st country to host the precious collection, according to the Japan Foundation Centre for Cultural Exchange.

Both exhibitions will run until the end of the month. — VNS

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