Kimekomi Doll | Japanese Noh Theater Character White Lion Dancer “Shishi-gashira”

Japanese traditional dolls are known by the name Ningyo, which literally means human shape. It is said that Kimekomi dolls were first made by Tadashige Takahashi, who served for Kamigamo Shrine in Kyoto over 260 years ago. Kimekomi dolls, “Ki” means wood, “Mekomi” refers to the construction. These small wooden dolls were clothed with leftover fabrics of Shinto priest’s robes or elaborate fabric remnants, with the edges of the fabric stuffed into narrow grooves cut into the doll.

This Japanese Lion Dancer is based on a folk story about a monk that had a dream in which there were many sorrows and evils plaguing the land. The monk prayed and asked Buddha how he could prevent these evils from occurring. Buddha told him through his dream that a lion would protect his people and fight back the evils. From this legend the Lion Dancer has been characterized in both Noh theatre and local festivals in both Japan and China.

This Japanese handmade doll is made of wood and has been carefully hand painted to evoke the mesmerizing fierceness of the White Lion character from the Noh play “Renjishi“, which means, “The Lion Dance“. The head is covered in Gofun (crushed oyster shell) with eyes, eyebrows and facial expressions painted using sumi ink with a brush. The doll’s wild, stark white silk mane pours forth from its head and its body is enveloped in a highly ornate red undergarment with a white/purple silk brocade Haori and Hakama.

The piece is in its original, great condition and shows slight fading of the Haori. Truly nice for its age and a fun piece for the doll collector. The doll measures 3-0” w x 1-3/4”d x 3-0”h. Age: 1960.

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