Learning the Art of Japanese Paper Dolls

One of my favourite cultural experiences during my years in Japan was taking a Japanese paper doll class.  Not to make those lovely little dolls we showed you yesterday, but 3D washi ningyo (paper dolls), sometimes known as anesama ningyo (older sister dolls).  Dolls which have a 500 year history in Japan.

These dolls are exquisite while slightly haunting with their blank faces.  They say the faces are left blank so that the owner / creator can imagine the face for themselves. The lovely papers used to dress the dolls are manipulated into resembling kimono silks.  A gentle twist or fold adds movement, personality.

Gathering together a small group of co-workers and friends, we made the short trip from Nagoya, our homebase in Japan, to nearby Seki to make our own paper dolls.  Chisako, the doll teacher, was lovely, exceptionally welcoming and ensured that our overall experience, as well as our final products, were wonderful.  To take a cultural class like this was something of a rare treat as many of the traditional arts are only taught in Japanese, especially once out of the tourist hot spots of Tokyo or Kyoto.  Each one of us left with warm feelings towards the experience, the teacher and the process, as well as a gorgeous washi ningyo of our own. 

Chisako is a paper doll artist whose dolls have been exhibited in both in Japan and overseas.   To read more about Chisako's doll classes (taught in English) and Chisako herself, take a look at this etsy article or check out her blog.

Should you ever find yourself in central Japan and on the hunt for a cultural experience attainable in English, why not try paper doll making?  It certainly will leave you with a more meaningful souvenir than an airport tchotchke!

If you aren't likely to make it to Japan anytime soon but our simple paper dolls have you hankering for something a bit more challenging, you're in luck!  Chisako sells e-books in her etsy shop, explaining how to make various styles of washi ningyo.  You can even buy kits including the papers and (most of the) other supplies needed to make your own washi ningyoVisit the shop here.

All images via japanesepaperdoll.wordpress.com