Katsura Ningyo – Japanese Doll with Six Wigs

I’m still in California, which means still no access to my kimono, but I do have something utterly charming to share with you today! I have wanted one of these Japanese Dolls with Six Wigs for as long as I can remember, having stumbled across one on eBay years ago. Unfortunately, they’re slightly awkward to ship due to the wooden box and often in very bad shape due to years of play and/or neglect. They were created primarily for the post-occupation tourist market, as little souvenirs to bring home for your sweetheart or daughter. Most often the doll’s name was Hanako, but I have also seen Fukiyo. There was also a Noh-theatre style male doll who is much harder to find.

I recently found out that Goodwill auctions off items online and when I saw this one that would ship here to California. Her box was in rough shape, broken in places and missing a lid. I also suspect it’s been repaired at some point in the past, as I’ve never seen one in this arrangement of six wigs on one side and the doll on the other – the doll is almost always in the middle of the box with three wigs on either side. However, the box is really secondary here – the doll herself and most importantly the wigs looked to be in quite reasonable condition, especially for the under ten dollars the bidding was at. The wigs are the most frequently damaged pieces, as they’re so small and delicate. I threw out a bid and left it to chance, and somehow nobody else bid. I guess Goodwill isn’t quite as well-established for the Japanese art and history community as eBay is! They even included this lovely folded furoshiki gift box. I haven’t had the heart to unfold it yet, it’s just so cute as it is.

The first step was cleaning up the doll and creating some sort of a display base for her. Her face was very dirty and I’m not sure if she ever had a stand of any sort, but she definitely is not built to hold herself up. Her body is made of stiff paper that’s crumpled over the years, and her hands and feet are held on with very thin wire that won’t support her weight. Cleanup was thankfully very easy, I simply ran a moist cotton swab very gently over her face and it brought her from a dingy grey to a lovely bright white. Unfortunately the gofun over her face is cracked on one side, but I still find her adorable. The base was made out of a decorative wood plaque and a chopstick, of all things! I simply drilled through the plaque, glued the chopstick in at the correct height, and then cut the end off. It tucks up into her kimono and holds her quite solidly, but she’s very easy to remove. Repairing the box was easy – a bit of wood glue, some tape to hold things together as the glue set, and voila. The wigs themselves needed hardly any attention, I just smoothed out some errant hairs with my finger tips.

I will fully admit that katsura (traditional-type wigs) and traditional hairstyles in general are not something I’m particularly knowledgeable about. If anyone can tell me what wig or hairstyle these are meant to represent, I would be forever grateful. I’m fairly certain the one with the yellow front is meant to replicate a male chonmage style, like a performer would wear for playing a male role, and the one with the blue comb seems to be a sort of tsubushi shimada, but I may very well be wrong!  Here are some close-ups and detail photos of each of the wigs.

I am so happy I finally got my hands on this little darling and can’t wait to introduce her to my other rescued vintage dolls back home.

Kiku The Bucket Ikebana

Behold, proof that I have not kiku’d the bucket. I’m sorry, that was a terrible pun but you put chrysanthemums is a lovely bucket-like container, that’s what you get.

I have been in southern California for the past few months and will be here a while longer, which is why I haven’t updated in so long. I don’t have access to my mannequin or any of my kimono, but I do have a few things I can share now so be prepared for more regular updates again!

The first is this charming ikebana I arranged after not having done one for so long. I have to say, it felt really good and I regret not sticking more regularly to it. The vessel, while looking very Japanese-inspired, is actually from a local ceramic artist who unfortunately does not have any sort of online presence (I did suggest he consider at least setting up an instagram or something, but he was, in his own words, “old and set in [his] ways”, alas). I saw it and fell in love, and had to buy it. I had no idea how much it cost, but when he said I could have it for twenty dollars I was over the moon.

The rangiku were actually from Wal-Mart, of all place. Mixed in with all the generic flower bundles were these little darlings and I knew they’d be absolutely perfect in this particular container. I’m so happy with how they combined!

I might try to do more ikebana in the near future, but it will likely all be in this container because I don’t have others with me XD

Spring Fling

I have a confession to make; I used to hate shibori. I suspect it was due to my aversion to certain textures and patterns. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve learnt to appreciate the beauty and incredible craftsmanship that goes into it, but it still wasn’t something I had much of in my collection (aside from some obiage). I also named my pet uromastyx lizard Shibori, due to the spots on his back.

This fully shibori beauty with pink botan and fans showed up on ebay, ending the same night as the rangiku piece in my previous entry. I found it with only minutes to go and only one bid. I threw out a ridiculously low bid and to my shock I won it!

It’s absolutely lush and gorgeous and I am completely in love with. What I was not expecting was how difficult it would be to coordinate!

The olive accessories were a given, they coordinate perfectly with the leaves on the kimono. However, this shade of warm salmon pink clashed with… basically every obi I could find. I settled on this silver one with tiny pink accents and it’s… fine? I guess? I don’t hate it, but it’s not as punchy as I would have liked. I’ll definitely have to hunt down the perfect obi for this piece and coordinate it again soon!

Have you ever changed your mind drastically on a colour, technique, or motif? Something you hated at first but have grown to love?

Items used in this coordination

(I haven’t had the chance to catalogue this piece either yet, but it will be added eventually!)

Chic Modern Kiku

I found this piece on eBay when it had less than an hour to go, and I just fell head over heels. I love how bold it is, how minimalistic it is despite the motif itself being huge and dramatic, I love the very simple colour palette. And of course, rangiku is one of my favourite motifs. I really lucked out here, someone actually bumped it up to my maximum bid in the last few seconds, but didn’t bid any higher so I ended up winning it by the skin of my teeth.

I was so eager to coordinate it that I haven’t even had time to take a photograph for my catalogue – I just wanted to get it on to the mannequin as soon as I had some free time.

I paired it with a mofuku nagoya obi, since I really wanted the punch of black contrast. I think the rest of the outfit is obviously enough not mofuku that I can get away with it. Ideally, I would have used accessories in the same blue as the accents on the flowers, but I don’t own anything in that specifically “blurple” colour. I went with some of my favourite blue pieces, my icy blue obiage and beaded obijime. The haneri is actually my silver spiderweb one turned inside out. That made me chuckle a bit, since in English rangiku are often referred to as spider chrysanthemums. Maybe one day I’ll coordinate it with the webs visible.

Items used in this coordination

Review – Sakuraco Japanese Candy & Snack Box

Sakura season is here! There’s no better time than to share with you the Sakuraco snack subscription box. Sakuraco were kind enough to send me this box for free but all opinions are my own. I’d been wanting to try this box for a while now, because the idea of a more traditional snack box really appealed to me. There are several others out there but they tend to focus more on modern junk food and otaku-type theming. Sakuraco stands out by offering a variety of very classic tastes and textures, and working directly with small Japanese businesses that have been producing these products for decades, if not longer. It felt like the perfect fit for a blog focusing on more traditional arts and cultures.

I received the April box, themed all around Sakura Festival. Nearly everything in the box has a sakura flavour, with a few complementary items with apple flavour and a few savoury/spicy items to help balance out the flavour profile of the box. This was a great idea to break things up a bit, as sakura can be a bit cloying on its own.

My first thought is that this box is beautifully presented. The mailing box itself is wrapped in protective packing material but once you remove that the box is beautiful. I intend to keep mine for storage, and this would also make them fantastic for gifting purposes. Once open, the box is inviting and piques your interest with a beautiful art card and a glossy magazine explaining all the products inside. This magazine is beautifully laid-out and photographed, and especially helpful as a lot of the items only have Japanese writing on them.

Once inside, I was amazed at the sheer variety and quantity of products they were able to include in a relatively small box.

I decided to create a little “sample plate” for myself, as I knew I wouldn’t be able to try everything at once. My father also helped me try out a few of the products, which I’m sure was a very arduous task for him 😉 I tried to aim for a variety of products, from sweet jellies to classic mochi to spicy and crunchy crackers. I’m reviewing the box concept as a whole but I thought I’d share my feelings on a few of these items anyway, to give you a better idea of what you might receive should you choose to sign up.

Sakura Jelly – Absolutely beautiful, very refreshing, but very mild in taste. Very soft jelly, and a slightly ephemeral experience due to the light texture and flavour.
Sakura Kuzumochi – Smaller, slightly denser, and a lot more flavourful than the larger pink sakura jelly, and my favourite of the two.
Sakura Daifuku – A delightful little sakura mochi filled with anko paste. Comforting and reliable if you like mochi. I won’t lie, these look a bit like tiny little butt-holes with the way they were folded together, and that just made me love them even more.
Sakura Kanten – A little gummy square, a bit like a french pate de fruits if you’re familiar with those. This one was wrapped in oblaat, which is an edible starch paper. It can be an odd experience if you’ve never had food wrapped in one, because it almost feels like you’re eating plastic, but it melted away quite quickly and the candy itself was delicious.
Sakura Manju – A soft, chewy dough-based manju bun filled with pickled sakura paste. I absolutely loved this one and want to eat twelve more right away!
Ume Arare – We’re reaching the more savoury side of the box now – these crackers are flavoured with salted ume, so there’s still a hint of sweetness, but tempered with sour and salty. These were sharp and unique and very enjoyable.
Chili Arare – A delightfully crunchy little ball with a kick of chili at the end. There were only two of these and frankly I regret giving the second one to my father because I want to eat more of them.

I thoroughly enjoyed everything I ate, and have high hopes for the rest of the items that I haven’t tried yet. It’s clear that every item in this box was selected carefully and thoughtfully. They all fit the theme and balance very well together.

The last item in the box was this absolutely beautiful little ceramic dish. There were three different designs available and I really lucked out and got the one I’d been hoping for! Of course I had to use it right away for my snack sampler!

The only negatives when it come to the Sakuraco subscription box, if I can consider them that, are that since you have no real control over which items you receive, if you have a lot of food allergies or intolerances this might not be ideal. I have a mild dairy allergy but it only causes minor histamine reactions in me, nothing serious or dangerous, so I’m fine if I monitor my consumption, but it definitely did make me stop and think about this. The beautiful little magazine clearly enumerates all potential allergens in every item, but if you have one to a common ingredient (wheat, eggs, milk, soy, etc) then it will definitely impede your enjoyment of this box. However, this is true for any food-based subscription or surprise box, and only you can decide what’s best for you.

The other issue is that one of the items in this box was very delicate and did not survive overseas transport. It’s a shame, because I was very much looking forward to this adorable boat-shaped senbei wafer filled with flavoured crackers. I still ate them all and enjoyed it very much, but the visual appeal of the whole experience was lost, which was a bit of a disappointment.

Pros:

  • Amazing selection of sweet and savoury goods from all over Japan
  • More traditional than a lot of other Japanese snack subscriptions
  • Beautiful packaging
  • Excellent value for the price
  • Fast shipping

Cons:

  • Some items may not transport well (see the poor mangled Senbei Boat)
  • May not be ideal for people with food sensitivities or allergies

In the end, only you can decide whether or not a box like this is worth it for you personally but I can say I wholeheartedly recommend it for any fan of more traditional Japanese flavours and textures! If you’d like to check out Sakuraco for yourself, please consider using my referral link by clicking here. Thank you!

 I received this item from the retailer or manufacturer for honest review purposes.If you have a topically appropriate craft, product, or service you would like me to review, please contact me.This post contains affiliate link(s). If you choose to purchase, I receive a small rebate or commission which goes to the continued maintenance of this site.