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Life Size Japanese Samurai Head, Matsuri Dashi Ningyo

Life Size Japanese Samurai Head, Matsuri Dashi Ningyo

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Japanese: Dolls: Pre 1900: Item # 407610
Asian Art By Kyoko
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Antique Japanese doll, a head of a samurai festival ningyo(doll), rare find; dashi (festival float) ningyo or Kiku festival doll. The measurement of this featured head (used for Dashi float or kiku ningyo festival) is 11 1/2 inches from the top to the bottom of the neck (stick excluded), slightly larger than life size and light in weight. Most of the weight is within the bottom pole. The painted eyes are looking down, indicating the higher position of the doll. This head needs to be placed on a stand (museum kind). A simple box with 1 3/4 inches hole on the top will also work. The neck will easily cover the gap between.

Matsuri in Japan: There are obviously heated passions when it comes to Matsuri there. I found many exciting web sites introducing their home town festivals with photos and detailed information. The information below are all(almost) from those websites; the beat of the Taiko drums is still ringing in my ears.

There are over 5000 matsuri festivals in Japan. 1400 of them have Dashi festival floats and some has a Hoko (long spear, naginata sword) on the top of the float. For the origin of Matsuri, it probably is best to choose one of the oldest and the biggest matsuri festivals, Gion Matsuri of Kyoto. It currently has 32 dashi floats. It started 1100 years ago when the city of Kyoto was attacked by strings of plagues and other disasters. At the time, people thought that all of the disasters were caused by the curse of Fujiwara, Michizane who was wrongfully accused of a crime that he had never committed and was forced to die in isolation. Matsuri started as a ritual to calm his angry sprit by enshrining (matsuru in Japanese) him and purify the city. Today, each dashi float goes through a ritual in the Kamo River before they goes around to purify the city the city during the entire month of July, attracting several hundreds of thousands of people yearly.

The dolls on the Dashi floats are historical heroes, legendary figures or characters from tales. The body is made or assembled at the site yearly. The older heads that exist today were made in the Edo (1603-1868) to Meiji period (1868-1912). A couple of the heads from Kyoto were made in the 1500s. There are some dolls that the artist are still unknown. Some heads were made by well known artists such as the generations of Shugetsu (Hara), Kamehachi (Yasumoto), Kisaburo (Matsumoto, only one exiting head) and so on. The second generation Shugetsu was the creator of Kokin bina; the generation of Kamehachi were the great iki ningyo (life size living dolls) artists and Kisaburo was the father of Iki ningyo from late Edo.

Some of the dolls have gone through major repairs and restoration before the artists were identified. Others were completely destroyed by fire, earthquakes and wars. A heart breaking story was told later by Mrs Kisaburo Matsumoto describing the destruction of over 40 iki ningyo of her late husband. In Kyoto, 58 floats were recorded before the Battle of Onin (1467-1477 -- lasted for 10 years!); only 27 were reconstructed 33 years later. The damages were also caused because the floats were exposed to the sun light or lanterns at night during the festivals. The floats faced other challenges by hitting electric wires when the electricity was invented.