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.

Hina-Matsuri 2021

Typically for Hina-Matsuri I do a somewhat thematic coordination or DIY a set of dolls. This year, however, my motivation hasn’t been where it should be, and I was worried I’d let the day go by without anything. But then I remembered that somehow last year I managed to get not one, not two, but three separate sets of Obina & Mebina dolls! I’ve posted some of them on Instagram previously but this seemed like the perfect time to share better photos and details.

First, I have this lovely traditional hakata ceramic set. These were totally unexpected – I found the Emperor on a shelf mixed in with the other “decorative clutter” at the local Goodwill-owned thrift store. I nearly didn’t take him, since he was alone, but then it occurred to me the Empress was likely somewhere nearby so I went hunting. I found her a few shelves over and I’m so happy I was able to reunite them and give them a home where they can be appreciated and treasured. Unbelievably, they were only $1.50 each! I don’t think they’re particularly old or “valuable”, but they’re incredibly charming and were such a treasure to find.

Next up is this cute (and slightly ridiculous) cat set by Decole Concombre. They’re quite tiny and made of resin, so they’re nothing fancy and not particularly elegant, but they are adorable and I love them to bits. Like all of Concombre’s figures, they look a bit like they only have one brain cell to share between them, which only adds to their charm, I think. I also have a kimono-clad bride and groom set that are very similar, and I think if I were ever to get married, they’d make a hilarious cake-topper.

Last, but certainly not least, my favourite anime power-couple, Haruka & Michiru (Sailor Uranus & Sailor Neptune). I actually ordered these quite a long time ago and had them shipped to Keith’s, so I was finally able to get them when I went a few months back! They were absolutely worth the wait; they are too cute for words. It’s my first time seeing a lesbian couple as Emperor and Empress, but it totally works with these two! Their outfits are accurate to typical hina dolls, but include references to their characters and Sailor Senshi powers which is a really nice touch. I also love that they also came with the little raised dais and byobu screen backdrop.

I know you guys want more kimono coords, and I promise I’ll have one sometime later this week!

Picrew.Me Kimono Avatar Creators part 3

It’s that time again! I’ve gone through literally hundreds of avatar creators on Picrew.me to bring you ones with kimono! Sadly none of these are kimono-specific, but they all have kimono hidden within their depths, typically with options to customise styles and colours. You can, of course, also use them to make non-kimono avatar, but where’s the fun in that?

If you need instructions on how to use the interface, I have a detailed breakdown in my first Picrew post.

https://picrew.me/image_maker/112551

The yukata in this one is the veeeery last option available, but it's got a bunch of cute patterns! The base is also very customiseable, so it's great if you're like me and enjoy making avatars of yourself.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/296093

A modern art style that I really enjoy. I also appreciate that this particular Picrew was not made by a Japanese creator, but they included reasonably accurate wafuku nonetheless. It also has hanbok, cheong sam, and sari options!
https://picrew.me/image_maker/332867

Neko-musume (catgirl) maker! I like that this one has kimono and haori options, and the little cats paw kamon is just too cute.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/196270

I will say up front, there's only one kimono option with three colours here (this pattern, solid, and white) and the collar is a bit weird. But it makes really cute portraits so I decided to included.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/190588/

A fun androgynous maker! There's only a few patterns of kimono but there are options for wearing it one-shoulder and some over-layers and things that make it a lot more fun.

https://picrew.me/image_maker/28224

A soft almost watercolour style avatar creator. This one is very soothing and pretty, and has both solid and patterned kimono options. It also has kimono worn in a more masculine style, and you can create some fairly androgynous characters with it.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/137904

Another cute one with a wide variety of traditional Eastern clothing. Only a few kimono options, but it let me recreate my actual undercut hairstyle so I'm biased!
https://picrew.me/image_maker/186583

How adorable is this one?! There are only two options, white feminine style and black masculine style, but I couldn't resist including it because it's just so damn cute.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/395214

I cannot express how happy it makes me when I find a Picrew avatar maker that includes hearing aids! This one only has a few kimono options, but the inclusivity absolutely made it worth sharing. Also I really want boba now...
https://picrew.me/image_maker/549603

This one stands out because of the fun, vintage-feeling pixel art style. Again, there are sadly not many kimono options, but I felt that it was unique enough to include.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/579735

Aaaaa! Full body sitting chibi avatar! Cuuuute! In all seriousness though, this contains a variety of colour options for the kimono as well as a hakama ensemble with multiple colour options. And the faces are so expressive!
https://picrew.me/image_maker/1695

This one is listed as a "ninja maker". It's a very simplified little avatar with a very stylised kimonoish outfit. Just included this one because it made me smile.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/45252

This one is technically a "witch" maker, but nobody ever said witches can't wear kimono, right? Bonus points for the really pretty traditional-style background options too.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/177583

Another charming one with a bunch of traditional Eastern clothing options. There are several colour and pattern options for kimono already, and several blank slots so I imagine they're in the process of adding more.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/388945

The faces on this one just make me laugh! Not a lot of options for the kimono itself, but the avatars are really charming.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/399481

There's both casual and wedding kimono for both avatars in this creator and you can change the colours for all of them! It's the first one I've seen that allows for a couple in kimono. Technically it's male and female, but a lot of the options are androgynous enough that I think it would be possible to make a variety of couples.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/165901

This couple is more obviously two women based solely on the outfits. Unfortunately, there's also only these two options for the kimono, but there are plenty of other clothes so you could do yourself in wafuku and your girlfriend (or sister, or bestie) in yofuku, or even the two sides of your own wardrobe!
https://picrew.me/image_maker/166256

Make your own bento lunch! You can choose everything here, from the tabletop to the drink to the garnish on the rice. Playing with it made me incredibly hungry and now I am craving kara-age. Maybe don't check this one out if you're already hungry.

As always, I hope you have fun with these and I’d love to see what you create with them.  😀

DIY Kokeshi Dolls featuring The Washi Tape Shop

Washi tape comes in so many beautiful and versatile designs, and is an important part of any Japanophile crafter’s arsenal. While most often used for journaling, scrapbooking, and wrapping gifts, there are so many other ways you can feature the gorgeous designs of traditional washi tape.

Today I’ve teamed up with The Washi Tape Shop to bring you a quick, affordable, and fun DIY project. If you’re stuck inside the house (aren’t we all nowadays?) this is a great way to spend an afternoon, and is easy and safe for kids to do as well! Many of the designs available at the Washi Tape Shop are clearly influenced by traditional Japanese textiles and patterns, so I figured what better way to feature them than to make your own kokeshi dolls?

Keep reading for detailed instructions!

Continue reading

Picrew.Me Kimono Avatar Creators part 2

I know things have been rather quiet here, and I do apologise. I’ve been doing a lot of back-end work, stuff that keeps the site running efficiently, but I realise that while it’s necessary it’s also not very interesting for you guys!

One of the things I did was update last summer’s Picrew Kimono Avatars post so it was responsive and worked on mobile devices. While doing that, I realised it’s one of my most popular and most frequently revisited posts, so I thought maybe it was time to do another one! I promise, there are actual kimono coordinations and some book reviews coming up, but in the meantime I hope you have fun with this. If you’re new to Picrew.me and aren’t sure how the interface works since it’s all in Japanese, there’s an explanation and tutorial in the previous post.

Female Avatars

https://picrew.me/image_maker/5215

This one is utterly adorable! There are lots of customisation options, different kimono and haori, and the watercolour style is so unique. It was also one of the only ones where I was able to give myself some semblance of a buzz cut, and since I like my avatars to look like me it gets extra points for that.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/110764/

A very pretty vintage-looking avatar maker. Both the style of the art and the style of the kimono give this a feeling of timeless nostalgia. There aren't too many options for the kimono; the whole ensemble (kimono, haneri, obi, accessories) are all connected so it's a bit constrained, but there's lots of customisation for the avatar itself.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/185483/

This one feels like a sort of "create your anime girlfriend" thing, to be honest. Something about the art style and expressions just gives me that impression! There are only a couple of kimono options, and you can't change their colours or accessories, but I thought it was charming enough to include it. Also I totally want a frappucino now!
https://picrew.me/image_maker/146912/

Historical-style avatars to be found here! I love the soft, demure art style of this one. There are lots of assorted Heian-style robes, junihitoe, priest's robes, etc. The layering options sometimes conflict with each other but it's worth a bit of fussing with to make something lovely.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/14538/

Another one with only a few kimono options, but the colour combos available and the art style felt unique enough to me that it was worth including it. I feel like avatars created with this one would do the "Ohohoho" noblewoman laugh in an anime XD
https://picrew.me/image_maker/268253/ This isn't a kimono-specific one but I really liked the anime style of it and there are enough kimono options to warrant including it!
https://picrew.me/image_maker/167775/

This is another one that's not kimono-specific, but it's cute! I'm starting to sound like a broken record here. But I wanted to be as thorough as possible for you guys! The face is nice and customiseable, with lots of hair colours and styles too.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/133067/

This one had to be included for the sheer number of awesome oiran and tayuu hairstyle options. There's lots of colour options for the kimono as well, but the hair's really the main draw here.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/252138/

This is just a lovely, elegant lady with a variety of kimono to choose from. The base is relatively customiseable and there are lots of fun traditional accessories too.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/165093

This is a really sweet vintage-feeling full-body creator. I love that there are a bunch of options to combine kimono, obi, and hakama with western-style clothing. There are even belt and corset style options for the obi, if that's the mood you're in! Even the backgrounds have a soft, Taisho feel to them.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/4607/

This is more of a Kitsune maker and only has a few kimono-specific options, but it's so cute I had to share it. You don't need to make a Kitsune, the ears and tails are totally optional, but I couldn't resist!
https://picrew.me/image_maker/262931

Another full-body option, but this time in a much cuter and more modern style. The customisation in this one is pretty great, you can layer three different types of patterns and motifs to create a really individual kimono. Be sure to explore the "colour" options here, as each one changes the pattern, not just the colour!

Male Avatars

https://picrew.me/image_maker/225108/

This avatar creator has a bit of a spirit/fantasy vibe, but subtle. Lots of options, but the end result always feels a bit ethereal and mysterious, which is never a bad thing!
https://picrew.me/image_maker/5135/

Not sure why I made this poor guy look so sad! Maybe it's because he only has two kimono options to choose from... I just really loved the art style and the level of detail in those two available outfits so I thought it was worthwhile to include.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/51747

Oh look, another one that's not kimono-specific! But the poor dudes really don't have anywhere near as many options as the feminine avatars, so I'm including any ones I find that have even one or two kimono.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/150536/

Again, one kimono with a few colour options. However, this one's got some androgynous features and more feminine hairstyles, so if you're looking for something that feels less strictly gendered than the above male and female options, it might be a good choice for you!
https://picrew.me/image_maker/249679

Again, just one kimono, but lots of solid colour options. This one really stands out in the amount of facial customisation; there are options for shading lines around the eyes and under the mouth, different combinations of nose and nostril shapes, etc.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/80783/

This guy's got a bit of a hard-boiled detective vibe. There's a decent selection of kimono, haori, and loosely-tied yukata to play with, as well as a lot of facial customisation.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/280380

I'm including this one because I thought it might be fun for people to create an avatar and then colour/paint it digitally, allowing for basically infinite customisation!

I hope that this table setup works better on mobile devices for you, and that you have lots of fun playing with these avatars while we’re all stuck inside our homes!