Whilst you’ve probably heard of hina dolls, kokeshi dolls and daruma dolls, you may be unfamiliar with kimekomi dolls. Also known as wood and cloth dolls, or Kamo-ningyo, the kimekomi is a traditional Japanese doll that is said to have been first invented in the middle of the 18th century.
History states that the first kimekomi doll was carved by Takahashi Tadashige, a carving artist who was serving Kamigamo Shrine. He is said to have carved the doll’s shape from willow tree wood and to have wrapped it in kimono material that he then attached to grooves cut into the body, hence why they are sometimes called ‘wood and cloth dolls’.

Nowadays, the use of willow tree wood is rare, but the traditional techniques of making and clothing the doll continue to be used by doll craftsmen today.

Traditional Japanese-doll making company Mataro Ningyo was founded in 1919 and has been crafting kimekomi dolls ever since. The company uses the traditional methods which have been passed down through more than 280 years since Takahashi Tadashige’s first design. Perhaps it is because of the use of these traditional methods that Mataro Ningyo is the only doll-making company that Kamigamo Shrine has certified as an official kimekomi doll maker.

Though the dolls usually depict Japanese nobility or famous historical figures, Mataro Ningyo is not afraid to step outside the box, and have produced a handful of kimekomi dolls resembling popular characters like this elegant Pikachu doll, or this adorable napping Kirby.

The modern-yet-traditional collection continues to grow as this Eevee doll joins the ranks of Mataro Ningyo’s Edo-kimekomi dolls

Using their renowned traditional techniques and inherited craftsmanship, Mantaro Ningyo has perfectly replicated a cute Eevee in kimekomi form. Unlike their Pikachu doll, which is wrapped in red, white and yellow floral cloth, the Edo Kimekomi Ningyo Eevee stays true to the character’s appearance, and features more subtle patterns such as the light ‘hail’ which can be seen on it’s cream coloured collar.

The market for traditional Japanese dolls is shrinking year by year. It is no longer the norm to find Hina dolls and May dolls in the home as it used to be. However, the charm of traditional crafts can still enrich our daily lives not only as part of celebrations, as lucky charms and gifts, but also as interiors and art.

As adults we sometimes fall victim to the ideas of ‘expectational society’, such as that stuffed toys are meant for children only (this is only a myth, you can display as many plushies as you want!), but this traditional doll is the perfect ornament for those looking for something that has a sense of elegance and class, as well as a touch of modern fun and quirk.

The Edo Kimekomi Ningyo Eevee is available from Mataro Ningyo's online store for 13,000 yen. Buyers should be warned each Pikachu takes a while to craft, so availability may be stalled depending on the stock.

Price: 13,000 yen (plus tax)
Body size: Frontage 150mm, Depth 120mm, Height 130mm
Set contents: Kimekomi doll Eevee / stand / kifuda (name plaque)
Pre-order available from: May 28, 2021

By - Connie Sceaphierde.